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Biotechnology: New Tool On the Farm

GENETIC engineering is a new tool that did not exist during the green revolution. Some tout it as the next big spur to food production.

Scientists are now able to create "transgenic" plants and animals, containing a gene or genes transferred from another species. These can be introduced into animal embryos, for example.

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The gene construct can be spliced together from various sources. A gene from a bacterium that is lethal to a certain insect has been transferred into a plant, allowing the plant to provide its own insecticide. This technology thus goes beyond traditional crossbreeding, which remains an important method of enhancing specific characteristics in plants and animals.

Critics are concerned that the technique constitutes tampering with Mother Nature and worry about undesirable outcomes; others argue the tool is not as magical or as dangerous as is thought - that it will be a green evolution instead of a revolution.

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