I’ve been fascinated the past 13 years as I have studied the process of life at the cellular level. Genetic engineering (GE) claims they can replicate this process with no testing because it is straightforward and without risk. As you read through the next few paragraphs, I am sure you will agree that GE cannot even come close to the complexity of nature.
The information with which a gene becomes expressed as a particular protein within a cell involves several steps. First, something on the outside of the cell (like a hormone, nutrient, immune system cell, bacteria, virus, etc.) has to bind to a cell receptor made up of sugars (often a glycoprotein). These sugars are nutrients that surround every cell in the human body. This attachment causes a change in the glycoprotein. It twists and alters its shape and electrical charge. The sleeve on the protein part of the glycoprotein is pulled back on the inside of the cell. Parts of the protein on the inside are now exposed. This is how communication from the outside of the cell to the inside occurs. Specialized enzymes inside the cell read the newly exposed proteins uncovered by the removal of the glycoprotein sleeve. The exposed proteins on the glycoprotein have information that direct which genes to turn on or off as a result of the binding process outside the cell.
Those enzymes then direct transcription or reading of a specific gene(s) in the DNA. The enzyme copies the needed segment from the DNA into a sister strand of RNA (ribonucleic acid). This RNA serves as a messenger and it conveys the information into a little cell factory called a ribosome. In general, the ribosome translates the genetic information into a chain of amino acids that subsequently fold into a protein. However, many times in animals and plants, before the RNA travels to the ribosome it must be edited. The editing is done by another set of enzymes that remove the sections of DNA that do not code for amino acids called introns. Often in addition to this, there is even another group of enzymes which can intervene to code for a different protein than what would have been created from the initial sequence. GE can’t account for all of these things. That’s why Mother Nature is essential to life!
The Complexity of Glycosylation
After the protein is built, glycosylation with sugars in other little factories, called the endoplasmic reticulum and golgi apparatus, are added. This can cause the same protein (or lipid) to express itself in billions of different ways. The complexity of this is staggering. The mechanics by which the enzymes determine which glycoprotein is going to be produced is neither prescribed by the gene nor even influenced by it. These glyco-enzymes are proteins that are coded by other genes but those genes do not direct the details through which the enzymes operate. They are not template driven which simply means they don’t follow a known script. The actions to determine which sugars to add are done in real-time based on the needs of the cell. This communication language is sugar based and the science of glycobiology is dedicated to unravelling it but currently we know very little about it. The complexity and multiplicity of metabolic pathways goes on without end. Do we really think we are smart enough to change this genetic code without ever testing the results?
Genetically Engineered Promoters
Not only is the full process of gene expression dependent on a number of factors outside the gene, most genes can’t even get the process started by themselves. A transcribing enzyme will only attach to a gene’s promoter region when that promoter is in a receptive mode and the default setting for promoters is always unreceptive. Promoters are used in GE to force a gene to turn on and run all the time. A promoter in a closed-down state will only activate through the agency of specific molecules that are usually independent of its associated gene. Most of these molecules are regulatory proteins produced by other (often distantly located) genes that are not influenced by the genes their expressed proteins regulate!
So, the complexity of real life as depicted in the previous paragraphs demonstrates how ludicrous an argument is which claims genetic engineering is precise. The process can go awry in a million ways when scientists tinker with it. Since they don’t perform any kind of significant testing, any disturbance in the system can cause problems which sooner or later will lead to disease. As we discuss in the glycobiology section of our Wellness Journey Class and in more detail in our Advanced Glycobiology class, sugars (glycans) are involved in all diseases affecting humans. But the GE industry has the perfect cover because disease states and immune system impairment will never be directly attributable to GE foods since they all have been decreed safe! But the increasing rates of illness in industrialized nations are coming from somewhere!
We can act to protect ourselves by choosing to purchase non-GMO food. The market is already responding to monetary pressure for these types of validated foods. The power of our purchasing dollars can force the change.
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