What is the significance of genetic engineering

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    Significance of genetic engineering for different areas of application
BiotechnologyGentechnikNov.07, published. 12/2008

  • Food
  • chemistry
  • Agriculture
  • Pharma
  • environmental engineering

The study "Competitiveness and employment potential of biotechnology in Germany" was commissioned by the German Biotechnology Industry Association (DIB) and the Mining, Chemical and Energy Industry Association (IG BCE). The results of this current study by the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI), Karlsruhe, and the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), Berlin were presented to the public in April 2007. It turns out that between 258,000 and 443,000 jobs are currently directly influenced by biotechnology. The future prospects are very promising: by 2020 several hundred thousand new jobs could be created in the industry.
In a short time, Germany was able to work its way up to third in the ranking of biotechnology locations behind the USA and Great Britain.

Genetic engineering

Genetic engineering refers to the targeted modification of DNA sequences (DNA = deoxyribonucleic acid)
A distinction is made between three areas under the term genetic engineering:

The food companies use vitamins and enzymes produced on the basis of biotechnology, for example. Test systems that food inspectors use to detect pathogens are also often based on biotechnological processes.

Green genetic engineering

Objectives: To improve the properties of plants and livestock:

  • Achieving higher crop yields
  • Better profitability with protected seeds
  • Change of shape and color e.g. in flowers
  • Improving resistance to pests and diseases

- Incorporation of resistance to pesticides and pests, e.g. genetically modified maize against
the European corn borer

  • Oil plants with a modified fatty acid composition
  • Plants with improved oils (e.g. rapeseed)
  • Removal of allergens for healthier foods

- Plants with increased vitamin concentrations (e.g. Golden Rice)
- Manufacture of pesticides

Genetic engineering is already a widespread plant breeding tool in many countries around the world, but it is still hampered in Germany.

Unlike in countries in North and South America, genetically modified plants still make up a very small proportion of cultivation in Germany. One reason for this is the restrictive coexistence and liability requirements of the German Genetic Engineering Act.

The red genetic engineering

In 2006, 123 drugs with 88 different genetically engineered active ingredients were approved in Germany. Worldwide there are over 350 genetic engineering substances in clinical trials with patients. (2006)
Preparations are made with the help of genetically modified bacteria, for example.
Genetically engineered drugs are used for the following diseases:

  • Diabetes (insulin for diabetics, formerly from pigs and cattle)
  • Anemia,
  • Heart attack,
  • Stunted growth in children,
  • different types of cancer
  • Hemophilia
  • Therapeutic Antibodies
  • For different purposes: vitamins
  • Therapeutic Antibodies
  • Means for diagnosing immune diseases

Food companies also use vitamins and enzymes produced on the basis of genetic engineering, for example. Test systems that food inspectors use to detect pathogens are also often based on genetic engineering.

The white genetic engineering

Green genetic engineering and thus also white genetic engineering is unfortunately blocked by the current genetic engineering law. This affects the white biotechnology that provides vegetable raw materials for chemical production, such as:

  • Sugar beet
  • Corn
  • soy
  • Rapeseed

A large number of chemical products can be manufactured using biotechnological methods - e .g. Alcohols, natural substances, biocatalysts and various specialty and fine chemicals. These applications are often summarized under the term “white genetic engineering or white biotechnology”.

"Old" genetic engineering or breeding

Selection of plants with particularly favorable properties, e.g. the cultivation of sugar beet from beet in the 19th century
Treatment of germs by ionizing radiation, heat or other influences in order to cause mutations in the genetic material.

Criticism of genetic engineering

  • Risk of herbide resistance
  • Danger to the diversity of species and varieties
  • Dependence of the farmers on the seed supplier
  • Change in the primary and secondary metabolism in the plants

-The contracts of the seed companies usually prohibit the re-sowing of parts of the harvest. The farmers have to buy new seeds every year. The seed manufacturer demands license fees for both the seeds and the harvested products. (Terminator technology)

It should be remembered that when the railroad was introduced in Germany, there was a serious discussion about the negative health consequences the high speed of 20-30 km / h would have on people.

A factual debate is made more difficult by the widespread ignorance of the possibilities and dangers of genetic engineering in the population, so that, similar to modern IT (e.g. for monitoring individual persons) and also with nuclear technology, the possibilities and dangers at the same time be underestimated and overestimated.

Advantages and goals of genetic engineering:

  • Increase in yields per hectare
  • Plants that require less water and grow on salty soils and deserts
  • Plants that bear more fruit
  • Plants that require fewer nutrients
  • Fighting hunger
  • Economic sectors of the future
  • Emerging countries such as China, India, Brazil and Argentina are increasingly using genetically modified plants to accelerate their agricultural development

Researchers who practice genetic engineering are required to comply with numerous safety regulations. The genetic engineering safety ordinance regulates work with genetically modified organisms in Germany.

Criminal activities and disabilities by opponents of genetic engineering

An expression of the protest against genetically modified plants are so-called field exemptions, whereby corresponding cultivation areas are illegally occupied or damaged by environmental activists. Occasionally, such actions also hit people who were completely uninvolved. For example, in April 2007, 250 activists from the organization mutatoes.org destroyed a field near the English city of Kingston upon Hull on which normal beans were planted, believing that there was an attempted release of potatoes.

The genetic insulin production was to be built at Hoechst / Frankfurt a.M. After more and more difficulties from the Hess. Environment Minister Joschka Fischer, the plant was built in Alsace. In the meantime, insulin is produced worldwide using the German method.

According to the law initiated by Rot-Grün (Künast), a farmer who cultivates genetically modified plants is liable if seeds have been transferred to the neighboring field. This is practically the death sentence for genetic engineering in Germany, while the triumphant advance of green genetic engineering has started in North America. This red-green blocking law must be abolished again and the prerequisites must be created so that research and development in the field of green genetic engineering can also be carried out in Germany without sabotage.

Legal situation

Labeling requirement for genetically modified products in the EU

Since April 18, 2004, there has been an obligation to label genetically modified products within the EU. It includes that all products that have a genetic modification must be labeled, even if the modification can no longer be detected in the end product.

Meat, eggs, dairy products and product additives made with the help of genetically modified bacteria are exempt from the labeling requirement. Likewise, enzymes, additives and flavors, as they are not considered food in the legal sense.

Labeling does not have to be carried out if the contamination with genetically modified material is below 0.9% (as of 2007) weight percent and is accidental or technically unavoidable.

Since the EU organic regulation was passed in 2007, the use of genetically engineered microorganisms (such as enzymes, vitamins and amino acids) in organic products has been permitted without these losing their status as organic products or having to be labeled accordingly.


  1. http://www.dib.org/default~cmd~shd~docnr~120930.htm Biotech letter no.3
  2. Genetic engineering from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  3. www.buerger-fuer-technik.de/html/gentechnik.html
  4. www.buerger-fuer-technik.de Red-green technology policy - a disaster

Dr. Ludwig Lindner