||The term genome
refers to all the genetic information carried by an individual
organism. This genetic information reads like a string
of words made up of only four letters which, when read
properly, direct all cellular processes. Even tiny alterations
in this genetic code can wreak havoc, causing life-altering
diseases in animals or humans or affecting yields of crops.
Manipulating the genome, however, can also bring many
advantages, such as making plants resistant to insect
pests and hence reducing the need for environment-harming
pesticides, or making crops more robust in extreme environments.
There has been a continuing concerted effort worldwide
to sequence the genome of many animals and plants, and
the genomes of yeast, bacteria, and recently humans have
essentially been completed (thanks in part to the support
of the Biotech programme). Much work needs to be done
though before this information can be optimally used,
either to understand the basis of disease and thereby
develop new treatments, or to be able to modify the genetic
makeup of organisms more effectively for medical or agricultural
benefit. In the case of rice, over 15,000 genes have been
identified, but the function of the bulk of these is unknown.
Biotech 2 is a strong supporter of genome analysis and
of efforts to determine the function of the thousands
of newly discovered genes. The successful outcome of these
projects and the development of new biotechnological products
is vitally dependent on strong collaborations and the
sharing of information between experts in the field.