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Escape!
Genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) have seen increasingly wide use in agriculture, bioenergy and medicine. The concept is simple: a gene for a specific trait from one organism is spliced into the DNA of a different organism, to modify its genetic activity. It can make the organism produce more of a desired protein, or make a bacteria less harmful and virulent.

None of these activities can change one organism to another. They simply change the way the organism interacts with the environment. Today it is estimated that 80% of the food supply in the United States contains GMOs. The technology is still not fully developed and faces many challenges. However, the science fiction of yesterday is rapidly becoming today’s reality.

What researchers and the general public are most afraid of is what might happen if a genetically modified organism would escape from the lab and start reproducing out of control. Would it destroy the rest of the world’s food supply? Or would it develop enough intelligence to launch an attack on mankind? These scenarios might sound farfetched, but scientists take many precautions known as “biocontainment” to prevent such an eventuality. These measures include sealed containers, isolation rooms and sterilization equipment.

According to a recent article published in the journal Nature, scientists are experimenting with a different approach. What if, instead of using physical measures to keep the organism from escaping, it can be modified so that it can’t survive outside the lab? Researchers in Harvard University have developed a strain of the E-coli bacteria that can survive only on a synthetic protein grown in the lab. If it should ever get loose into the wild, it would simply die of hunger. Now the researchers are working on extending these findings to other organisms.

Our ability to modify nature can never be anything but a pale imitation of G-d’s infinite power. But in some ways the challenges are analogous. When G-d first created mankind He placed Adam in the Garden of Eden to “work it and to guard it.” But Adam did not heed G-d’s mandate and ate of the Tree of Knowledge. To prevent evil from escaping and lasting for eternity, G-d decreed that all organisms would die, and the potential for evil would die as well.

In the future, however, the world will be perfected and death will no longer be necessary.  At that point, we will all live forever. This is the last of Maimonides’ 13 Principles of Faith: “I believe with perfect faith in the resurrection of the dead…” We will no longer have any fear of evil “escaping” into eternity, because G-d will remove the spirit of impurity from this earth and swallow up death forever.
 

 


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