The Pros and Cons of Genetic Engineering
What do we see on TV or in magazines? - Ideal slim and sporty Photoshoped models. Whom we are admiring? – Intellectual, multi-task active positive person. Idealization is in the core of people minds which transformed into a fetish today. Gyms, dietitians, plastic surgery are all selling us the perfect image we have to imitate. How about ideal food with the best nutrition features? How to win a fight against deadly diseases? Genetic engineering can be a solution, the perspectives of this new born science is sky high. The society has already added on their armoury genetic engineering, but in the process of targeting hot issues a human had found a lot of ambiguous questions we still can’t answer objectively. The scientific progress is growing and advancing so rapidly that people can’t find solutions huge ethical dilemmas. Every progress has the side effect of its own. Where are milestones of genetic engineering hiding?
Genetic engineering is a course when specific features, genes are taken from one organism and inserted into another (plant or animal). Off course long time before this science appeared farmers tried to yield the sweetest corn, the biggest potato, the most productive wheat etc. Same situation was with the livestock. They were selecting healthier and fatter animals to produce good stock in future. With the help of breeding technologies humanity had produced new breeds of animals and better quality plants. Let’s recall brief history of genetic engineering. Right in the beginning of 1990s two grains was modified genetically, which were corn and cotton. A famous goat Dolly was genetically cloned in 1996. This fact brought high resonance among people. In 2003 first human genome was defined. “Some scientists predict that by 2015, new parents will pay ten dollars to have their baby’s DNA sequence read at birth and placed in his or her medical file.” (Kafka, 2009, 10)
With every year scientists introduced new spheres where genetic engineering can function. The science has occupied the field of medicine, research, industry and agriculture. What gains this science brought to each field and what were the don’ts which caused so many questions among humanity?
Medicine has adopted the best from genetic engineering. Since the beginning of its history the pharmacy field was based on medicinal features of herbs. Foxglove, wildflower, common mold are still a core of drug therapies. Animal parts were used to cure people as well. A lot of diabetics were saved due to the genetic engineering. In 1920 the scientists discovered that hormone insulin produced by pancreases. It has given the opportunity to debride it from the animal pancreases. The side effect was the strong allergic reaction in some diabetics. The recombining process of DNA was mastered and engineers had defined human insulin into bacteria which became a small factory for producing insulin and prevent future allergic reactions. The promising future of gene therapy is obvious. The process can repair or replace the defective genes which cause genetic diseases. Over past 10 years some autoimmune illnesses were treated by gene therapy. Engineers strongly believe that in future Huntington’s disease, cystic fibrosis and other illnesses with defective gene can be successfully cured by genes therapy or even through gene surgery. Pregnant women are insisting on scanning their fetuses on the genetic diseases. It can prepare parent for possible special requirements of a newborn. The scientists are researching the future possibility to use gene therapy for the embryos before the process of in-vitro fertilization.
Breeding has also added genetic engineering to their arsenal of creating new enhanced products. Sheep are farming for clotting protein for helping people to clot the blood and ATryn, which prevent people’s blood from thickening. “Scottish biologist Helen Sang is incubating a plan to produce chicken eggs enhanced with proteins for treating a variety of human diseases.” (Kafka, 2009, 14) The scientists from California are researching chicken eggs as well for the purpose of enhancing protein in them. The eggs are well known source of protein and growing quantity of it can help to treat different diseases.
Agriculture is using genetic engineering in all fields. Genetically engineered food is spread all over the world. Food is modified for prevention different allergic reaction in consumers, for prolongation its life on shelves, increasing nutrition features and even to cure different diseases. Pros of genetically modified food (GMF) are variable so as the cons. The main advantage of GMF is the ability of controlling the emergence of concrete diseases. Certain products can cause specific allergic reactions, by modifying the DNA of concrete food the genes causes it eliminated successfully. The second profit is the fact that GM food grows faster that the natural one, it can be safe of plant pests, pesticides and insecticides. This feature makes GM cheaper than crops grown in natural form, which is very lucrative for the farmers as well as the consumers. Better nutritious abilities and long time life without spoiling are the remarkable pluses for both customers and suppliers.
What about the “don’ts” of this science. After cloning the first animal people greeted the scientists all around the world for their magnificent impact into the science. As the genetic engineering leap further of its development the humanity stuck facing the questions of morality, ethics and simply what is right or wrong. Several years ago a deaf couple while planning their child has decided that their newborn has to be deaf as they are. “We feel whole as deaf people and we want to share the wonderful aspects of our deaf community a sense of belonging and connectedness with children. We truly feel we live rich lives as deaf people.” (Sandel, 2007, 1) When the story has appeared in newspaper it brought a lot of severe dispute. The main issue was the right to choose for the future human being disabled for the rest of his life. The freedom of choice is one of the substantial virtues a human being has. A future child with implied characteristics beforehand lacks this freedom. In this case a future human won’t be able to speak only because its parents afraid he would have the advantage in front of them. Is it a huge selfishness? There are other parents who want their children have the best qualities for functioning in the particular society. It always depends on society what the exact features you will need to become successful and happy. What if a child planned with high mathematical abilities could be the best dancer or artist? We will never know. The human nature of controlling and idealizing everything around can play bad tricks for the humanity. The future genetic engineering can possibly prolong the longevity of human life. Demographical boom is already the problem of our planet today, the longer life can be a disaster. High price of genetic engineering can also cause the increasing of social and economical inequality. Wealthy layer will have more possibilities to create super humans and as the result the ordinary people will suffer from bad treatment and lack of any ambitions and possibilities.
There is one case occurred in California. A woman named Julie has lost her pet, which was the delight of her life, she has found out an organization cloning cats. She paid for 50 000$ for the identical copy of her pet. After this accident the company reduced the price to 32 000$ per cat and revealed their new strategy to make 100 000$ per cloned dog. “If you feel that your kitten doesn’t suf%uFB01ciently resemble the genetic donor, we’ll refund your money in full with no questions asked.”(Sandel, 2007, 4) Doesn’t it sound weird to create home pets by cloning instead of taking new ones?
If talking about disadvantages of agricultural usage of genetic engineering it is impossible to mention that the consequences of GM food aren’t digested properly. Instead of useful nutrition such food can cause harm to our bodies. According to some scientists opposed to genetic engineering GMF can be a reason for developing illnesses immune to the antibiotics. Some of the antagonists claim that the using such food can boost the development of cancer. Many suppliers of modified food simply suppress the information that their products have GM ingredients. In this case a customer can’t be sure which product is modified and which isn’t. One of the biggest layers of opponents is religious and some cultural sectors. The idea of developing modified food seems unnatural for many humans as well. The fact that this kind of food can harm other species in our nature surroundings is worrying too. There is another social problem which can put developing countries in dependent position of industrialized countries, because the last will be able to control food supplies all over the world. The main problem with the genetic engineering itself is the lack of knowledge in this science. As it was mentioned above this field is very young and the impact on human body is absolutely unpredictable. First positive results can cause some negative ones in the future generation. That is why most people now avoid GM food.
How to answer the questions in the cases when the ethical and moral rules collide with genetic engineering? Is this science for good or for bad? How to depict the right resolving of the problem? It is not the issue that we need this kind of knowledge, it is already saved a lot of lives and brought new perspectives into vary fields of science. Now a mother can be aware beforehand if her child will have genetic illnesses or not. A lot of ill people can find a cure through genetic engineering, food can have a lot of new features. An allergic to oranges can eat modified fruit with no fright to have problems with health.
The opposition to the pros arguments stands moral values people can’t deny. Personal freedom can be very fast thrown back if the parents will be designing the future generation. It is a big fright that we at the end allow the cloning of a person and the idea of uniqueness of a person will vanish with the word. It is normal to be afraid about the impact of experiments with the genes implanted into the different organisms, crops and animals and vice versa. It is difficult to predict what new illnesses can cause MD food. What if we’ll have genomes of animals or vegetables?
However it is difficult to deliberate and to say for sure what new possibilities and features genetic engineering will bring us. Lack of researches of side effects and the science itself due to a short time of this field existence makes totally impossible answering all these questions.