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In a study meant to help genetic engineers breed disease-resistant plants, in 2005 researchers at the University of California, San Diego modified a tobacco plant by adding a gene from a firefly to its DNA. The resulting plant, shown here, glowed like a firefly.
Photo credit: National Science Foundation

Humans have been practicing genetic modification, in a broad sense, for thousands of years, traditionally through selective breeding, and this is not generally controversial. More recently, new varieties of plants, animals, and microorganisms have been created using technology that acts directly at a genetic level. Much of the debate on this subject has been from the perspective of utilitarianism; as well, there are broader ecological and cultural concerns.

The terms genetic engineering (GE) and genetic modification (GM) are often ...

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