Understanding-the-science-behind-Jurassic-World
The most awaited science fiction and adventure thriller – Jurassic World – has been released in cinemas from 10th June 2015.   The movie has generated immense excitement and anticipation among adventure movie lovers. Directed by Colin Trevorrow, Jurassic World is the fourth installment in Jurassic Park franchise. Originally scheduled to be released in 2005, the movie has been released after 10 years of delay, by Universal Pictures.

The movie stars Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Irfan Khan, and B. D. Wong, (the only actor to appear from the previous movies of Jurassic Park).

So far, the movie has received mixed reviews. The critics have praised the movie for its stunning visual effects, elaborate sets, talented cast, story development, and graphics. However, if there is one segment of the community that is seriously unhappy with the sequel, it is the scientific community.  Paleontologists had applauded “Jurassic Park” for its scientific accuracy pertaining to the creation of the dinosaurs and the plausibility of the science behind the plot at that time. But its sequel, Jurassic World has been criticized for ignoring the same science, with several dinosaur experts calling the film a ‘dumb monster movie’.

What’s in the story?

The story is based on the creation of a genetically modified dinosaur, Indominus Rex, which has genes of various dinosaurs and the unexpected, unimaginable consequences that the modifications bring.

What are genetically modified organisms or GMO’s?

GMOs are organisms, which are genetically modified for desirable characters, for example, genes are modified in tomatoes and flowers to have longer shelf life, in crops to produce higher yields, or have higher protein and/or fat content, crops that are disease resistance, and so on.

The art behind…

GMO’s have the desired genes incorporated within their genome, which in turn brings the desired change in that organism.  It’s like inserting the gene of a jackfruit into a mango plant and you start growing mangoes, which are as large as jackfruits. Incredible! Isn’t it?

Is the creation of new organisms a fiction? A reality? Or a peep into the future? 

Creation of genetically modified organisms [GMO’s] is not science fiction anymore. It’s a reality.

GMO’s have been created by scientists all over the world have created GMOs for quite a while now, mostly to benefit society. This branch of science is called Genetic Engineering or Biotechnology.

The classic example one can give is that of human insulin. Before discovery of genetic engineering techniques, diabetic patients were treated with insulin extracted from pancreas of slaughtered animals. But now, genetic engineering allows the human insulin gene to be incorporated into bacteria, which then makes the hormone and secretes it.  Amazing! Isn’t it?

A Success Story

There are a number of vaccines, medicines, nutrition supplements, which have been manufactured using genetic engineering techniques. And, GM crops with various desirable traits or characters, GM animals with increased meat production, milk production capacities and other useful traits are common. Golden rice, BT Brinjal and BT cotton are same famous examples of GMO crops.

Nature’s reaction on human interference in her personal lab…

This is what the scientific community is really worried about. Scientists cannot always control the expression of newly incorporated genes, because the activity of one gene may have an impact on various other genes or groups of genes.

In such cases, manipulation of a single gene, predicted to give a definite outcome, a desired change in the organism involved, may lead to unpredictable or unimaginable changes elsewhere in the organism – the general theme of the movie Jurassic World.  The spliced gene from different dinosaurs gives rise to Indominus Rex, which is very much an undesirable organism. The possibility of such an event is yet another reality. Jurassic World is not the only movie, which sheds light on such a possibility. The movie I Am Legend is based on the mutation in a bacterial vaccine, which leads to disastrous results.

Raising concerns…

Further, scientists are not sure as to how this affects the balance in the ecosystem, the effect on biodiversity or the possibility of gene flow from one organism to other. Besides there are issues such as side effects of drugs produced using the technology, health concerns, ethical use of the technology, bio terrorism, religious concerns and others.

The terminator seed technology is one best example from recent times for unethical use of technology by certain agricultural companies. The terminator seed technology forces the farmers to buy seeds from the brand company year after year for farming, making their crop plants to produce seeds which are sterile or unfertile. By adopting this technology, the seed companies would literally control the agricultural production of a country and in turn, its economy.

In conclusion…

The movie Jurassic World is a start reminder of the dangers of genetic modifications, without an understanding of its untended consequences. GM animals and crops have their advantages, but our understanding of their impact is limited. Our knowledge of GM has to be used selectively and after much experimental review. Until a few decades back, GM was restricted to selectively pick some traits while discarding others, e.g., seedless lemons and watermelons, honey bees that can withstand diseases and pests, and so on. Mass deployment of the technology without significant evaluation of its impact could lead to disastrous outcomes as shown by Indominus Rex.

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