Science in Society Archive

I-SIS scientific publication November 2013

The New Genetics and Natural versus Artificial Genetic Modification

Mae-Wan Ho Entropy 2013, 15, 4748-81.

Abstract: The original rationale and impetus for artificial genetic modification was the “central dogma” of molecular biology that assumed DNA carries all the instructions for making an organism, which are transmitted via RNA to protein to biological function in linear causal chains. This is contrary to the reality of the “fluid genome” that has emerged since the mid-1970s. In order to survive, the organism needs to engage in natural genetic modification in real time, an exquisitely precise molecular dance of life with RNA and DNA responding to and participating in “downstream” biological functions. Artificial genetic modification, in contrast, is crude, imprecise, and interferes with the natural process. It drives natural systems towards maximum biosemiotic entropy as the perturbations are propagated and amplified through the complex cascades of interactions between subsystems that are essential for health and longevity.

1. Introduction

It has been almost 20 years since the first genetically modified organism (GMO) entered the market [1]. A GMO is simply any organism (plant, animal fungi, bacteria or virus—not strictly an organism)  with synthetic genetic material inserted into its genome (“genome” in this context includes extrachromosomal plasmids and mitochondrial and chloroplast DNA); it is made in the laboratory with sterile techniques, which also means without the need for sexual reproduction between donor and recipient species of the genetic material. The basis for such genetic manipulation was the “central dogma” of molecular biology due to Francis Crick [2,3], who shared the Nobel Prize with James Watson for the DNA double helix structure [4]. As Oller stated at the beginning of this special issue [5], Crick’s oversimplified dogma proposed that biologically meaningful information could only flow from DNA through RNA to proteins, and so forth to cells, organs, organisms and species; and nothing could be added to the DNA program from the outside by any means. Gryder et al [6] in this series have developed their argument about cancers on the same doctrine, although both Oller [5] and Gryder et al [6] acknowledge that the central dogma is an oversimplification. Yet, that dogma remains the basis for genetic engineering. It is supposed that individual “genetic messages” in DNA are faithfully copied or transcribed into RNA, which are then translated into proteins via a genetic code; each protein supposedly determining a particular trait, such as herbicide tolerance, or insect resistance; one-gene-one-character. Hence inserting a new genetic message into an organism will give it the desired character to serve our every need. If it were really as simple as that, genetic modification would work perfectly every time. Unfortunately things are vastly more complicated.

Samsel and Seneff have exposed the-one-gene-one-character fallacy by documenting the wide-spread impact of the herbicide-tolerant trait in GM crops on the health of crops, animals and consumers [7]. In this article, I review further empirical evidence on how artificial genetic modification disrupts the natural process, ultimately resulting in the maximization of biosemiotic entropy [5].

This important article is freely available for download here

Article first published 04/11/13

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