El viejo nuevo mundo de la biotecnología

Quienes son escépticos acerca de la biotecnología la descalifican como algo no probado, no demostrado, no natural e incontrolable. Nada podría estar más lejos de la verdad. Por el contrario, ni la biotecnología ni la ingeniería genética son algo nuevo, y los consumidores, gobiernos e industrias tienen una experiencia prolongada, amplia y positiva con ambas.

La biotecnología temprana (la aplicación de los sistemas biológicos a procesos técnicos o industriales) se remonta al 6000 A.C., cuando los babilonios utilizaban microorganismos especializados para la fermentación y producción de bebidas alcohólicas. La ingeniería genética se puede ver en el reconocimiento del hombre de que los animales y las plantas de cultivo se pueden seleccionar y criar para mejorar las características deseadas. Los primeros biólogos y agricultores llevaron a cabo la selección de rasgos deesados, generando cambios (aunque comprendían muy poco en qué consistían éstos) en el material genético de los organismos.

Para decirlo de otra manera, la "naturaleza" no nos dio uvas sin semillas, ni el tangelo (un híbrido entre mandarina y uva) ni las fresas resistentes a los hongos: los agricultores y criaderos de plantas lo hicieron. Durante el siglo pasado, la mejor comprensión de la genética a nivel molecular ha contribuido a la sofisticación de la mejora genética de todo tipo de organismos.

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