Why is this important? – Our understanding of genetics is transforming our approach to medicine and agriculture

genetics 1Genetics : This covers understanding and using genetic techniques to accelerate conventional plant and animal breeding; or to genetically modify organisms with desirable traits (pest resistance, drought resistance etc.);  or to design and target individualised medical interventions on diseases such as cancers. Genetics can also help identify the next generation of drugs targeted for example, at anti-biotic resistance or at an individual’s personal response to diesease.

Examples : Herbicide resistant maize; Genetically altered mice for medical testing; Genetically altered sterile male mosquitoes (proposed to combat Zika virus);  Successful treatment of leukaemia in child; Cloning of animals with highly desirable traits; Used also to trace historic migrations of mankind.

genetic modSkills needed : Evolutionary biology, organic chemistry, medicine, maths, computer science, genetics.

What will push development : Medical advances and the potential to speed up the development of agricultural responses to climate change issues.

Consequences : One of the most controversial of topics. Critics point to the large number of variables and the unknown consequences of releasing new species into the environment. Supporters see these techniques as enabling us to respond to unforeseen issues such as Zika virus. Medical advances may make their use irresistible.