Genetic engineering (also known as genetic modification) is the manipulation of an organism's DNA. Genetic engineering has numerous applications in agriculture, medicine and research.
Genetic engineering techniques are used to produce new lifeforms with more desirable properties for human use or to create biological factories that produce specific proteins. Insulin produced from genetically engineered organisms to treat diabetics is one of the most obvious examples of the latter use.
Many people see genetic engineering as a recent development, and direct manipulation of DNA is. However, humans have engaged in genetic engineering through the process of selective breeding since the Bronze Age or earlier to produce crops with superior yield and domesticated animals with desired traits.
Genetic Engineering in Science Fiction
Genetic engineering is a rather common theme in science fiction in the latter half of the twentieth century.
- In the Star Trek universe, treatment of genetic engineering varies by government.
- On Earth, genetically enhanced humans known as Augments were created in the last years of the twentieth century. The wars that resulted from Augment conflicts resulted in laws against genetically engineering sapients in the Federation.
- The Jem'Hadar are genetically engineered soldiers cloned as needed by the Dominion.
- In the animated TV series Exosquad, the main antagonists are the Neosapiens, genetically engineered humans created as laborers.
- In the Warhammer 40,000 universe, the most powerful soldiers of the Imperium of Man are the genetically enhanced Imperial Space Marines.
- In the Stargate franchise, the Goa'uld have created an offshoot of mankind known as Jaffa to serve as infantry and incubators for young Goa'uld symbiotes, although it is possible for a Goa'uld to convert an adult human into a Jaffa by unknown means.
- Genetic engineering drives the plot of several of Lois McMaster Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan books.
- Robert A. Heinlein wrote about genetically engineered humans in Friday, Methuselah's Children, and Revolt in 2100.
- The TV series Space Above and Beyond features artificially grown soldiers on the side of the humans.