Last Saturday, I visited the Museum of Science and Industry located in Chicago between Lake Michigan and The University of Chicago. The museum is dedicated to the exploration and display of scientific and technological advancement. One of the most popular exhibits in this extensive museum pertains to genetics. Specifically, cloning and genetic modification of life forms.
Me and a museum attendant at the Museum of Science and Industry
One exhibit displayed the cloning of mice. The mice all had identical gene sequences. The cloning process is accomplished by taking the nucleus of a somatic cell within an organism and inserting the genetic information of the donor cell into the nucleus of an unfertilized egg where the nucleus had been previously removed. The eggs are then activated and implanted into the the mother as an early-stage embryo. Three weeks later, the cloned mouse is born.
A cloned mouse
The next exhibit focused on genetically modified organisms (“GMO”). I peered into a tank and saw a genetically modified frog and remembered the BioArt of Eduardo Kac who created the fluorescent bunny, Alba. The frog had a fluorescent green gene inserted into its genome, causing its eyes to glow. The ethics of BioArt are highly controversial and questioned in terms of its usefulness versus the harmful consequences to the affected animal, especially because an animal cannot consent to scientific manipulation of its DNA.
The exhibit also highlighted the usefulness of GMO’s in food production. The process involves inserting genes to foster desirable traits in plants. Like the experiments with animals, the genes may come from a different unrelated organism or plant. The traits targeted through genetic engineering are deemed to improve the plant’s immunity from pests and disease. The goal is to increase the likelihood of a bountiful
harvest. The process is often more cost-effective than the historical approach of breeding. The exhibit focuses on herbicide-resistant soybeans and corn.
However, GMO foods have been criticized for their lack of flavor and the oddly gargantuan size of the resulting fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes were the first genetically modified foods to be put on the market in 1994. The advantages of genetically modified foods are that they can be resistant to pests, produce larger yields, and have a longer shelf life. Many would assert that the larger, brighter colors that often result are more aesthetically pleasing than the organic variety of the same fruit or vegetable.
Alba the fluorescent bunny juxtaposed with the Genetically Engineered frogs exhibit
"Clone Process » In-Depth » Explore More: Genetic Engineering." Clone Process » In-Depth » Explore More: Genetic Engineering. N.p., 2004. Web. 24 July 2016.
"Tomatoes." Genetically Modified. N.p., 27 Nov. 2006. Web. 24 July 2016.
"Benefits of GM Food:." GMO. N.p., 2005. Web. 24 July 2016.
"Genetics and the Baby Chick Hatchery." - Museum of Science and Industry. N.p., 2016. Web. 24 July 2016.
Kac, Eduardo. "GFP BUNNY." GFP BUNNY. N.p., 2000. Web. 24 July 2016.
Alba the Fluorescent Bunny. N.d. Concoll.edu. Web. 24 July 2016.
Frog at the Museum of Science and Industry. N.d. Pinimg. Web. 24 July 2016.