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Engineering: Altering the face of science for the betterment of society Genetic engineering has become one of the most hotly debated topics worldwide. As said by British biologist P. B. Medawar, “Nothing since the early days of atomic weaponry has caused so much dismay as the real or imagined threats associated with the development of genetic engineering… [1]. ” For some, genetic engineering represents a threat to natural life on Earth. At the same time, there are others who hail this new field as the most promising breakthrough in the last few decades.

With the knowledge I have so far, I personally believe that with the right amount of time, money and regulations, genetic engineering will help reduce disease, save countless lives. Before we discuss the issues with genetic engineering, I think we have to know how this technology came about. In the 1950’s, three scientists, Francis Crick, Maurice Wilkins, and James Dewey Watson, were credited with the discovery of DNA [2]. DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) carries a living organisms genetic code and the manipulation of it created the field of genetic engineering. In a way, manipulation of genes is not really new.

Long before, farmers have controlled the outcome of plant and animal breeding through selective breeding. It all first started with the concept of selective breeding, which is still done today by arranging animals to breed together to enhance and increase genetic make-up [3]. But unlike genetic engineering, the manipulation of genes in selective breeding is all natural and can only be done within the same species. Genetic engineering has boundless opportunities and that comes with controversies. One of the hot topics in genetic engineering is the genetically modified plants and genetically modified crops.

Plants can be used to produce and grow the way we wish by genetically altering them to be resistant against pests and withstand harsh weather conditions etc. I strongly support transgenic plants because unlike traditional plant breeding approaches that takes about five years for a plant to be virus resistant crop, the gene transfer approach is direct and can be done within nine months [3]. Not only does it provide faster results, genetic engineering can manipulate the genes in plants to have built-in defense system to fight against the herbicides and insects.

This will help lower the usage of chemicals in farms and also increase the yields to meet the supply and demand of consumers. With genetic engineering, crops need less soil preparation and these crops have proven that they can grow in most of the harsh environments. This is a good way to decrease world hunger and improve tolerance to weathering and plant eating bugs [1]. With change always comes controversies and the main concern about GM crops is if they alter human genes once we ingest it.

Organizations such as Greenpeace are vehemently against the use of genetically modified organisms because they believe that there is too much unknown about the effects of genetic engineering to safely apply to our food sources. But, I do not think it is a valid point since these genetically engineered crops are being tested everyday and till now there are no cases of mutation of genetically engineered crops [4]. I think that the moral question of genetic engineering can answered by looking at the advances in medicine. Many people do not realize that genetic engineering plays a role in many lives through out the world.

For instance, genetic diseases affects a large proportion of our population. A genetic disease is an illness passed on through genes; such diseases include Cystic Fibrosis, Huntington’s disease and sickle cell anemia. These diseases can cause paralysis, mental deteriorating, and physical deformity, all leading to death [5]. Genetic engineering is being used all over the world to help and cure these fatal diseases. There are many ethical and social issues involved with genetic enhancement. Many people believe that if a person was meant to have a certain defect then that is their future and that is what is meant to happen to them.

I am against this statement and supports genetically altering someone’s DNA so that they could live a normal life instead of living a life filled with pain and suffering. For instance, if a child was going to be born with some disease that would cause them any pain throughout their life then the parents are definitely going to have their DNA altered so they could live a normal healthy life. With all this, I have been wondering about what kinds of diseases could genetic engineering possibly cure? I found that genetic engineering could lead to the treatment r prevention of hereditary diseases such as; cystic fibrosis, diabetes, and hemophilia. Also genetic engineering could be the cure for Fragile X Syndrome and Down syndrome which are both forms of inherited mental retardation [1]. Further research are being done and I support all of these studies 100 percent because if there is any way to prevent diseases, then it should be done. There are still people who say that this new biotechnology is letting scientists and doctors play “god. ” I think it is more of an ignorance rather than a legitimate cause against genetic engineering.

Doctors and scientists have already helped diabetics with their synthetic insulin, and unfertile parents are now able to have children. For example, Synthetic insulin is now available for use to treat diabetes. The synthetic insulin lasts two to three times longer than its natural form and costs substantially less to manufacture than to extract it from an animal, primarily pigs. Also in pigs, the scientists had to wait for it to mature to extract the insulin. The synthetic source is completely manmade and any amount can be manufactured in large quantities.

The replication of insulin is not the only way biotechnology is being utilized [6]. Those that oppose genetic engineering because doctors are trying to play god, do not realize what genetic engineering has already contributed to our world. Even though I support genetic engineering as a whole, I am not a supporter of genetic enhancement instead of disease prevention. I think the most controversial issue with genetic engineering is genetically enhancing humans so that people could have increased size, strength, intelligence, etc. Edward O.

Wilson, a Harvard entomologist, believes that we will soon be faced with difficult genetic dilemmas. Because of expected advances in gene therapy, we will not only be able to eliminate or at least alleviate genetic disease, we may be able to enhance certain human abilities such as mathematics or verbal ability. He says, “Soon we must look deep within ourselves and decide what we wish to become [7]. ” This issue of genetic enhancement in humans is one that society will have to deal with in the near future, and I believe that this type of genetic engineering just isn’t necessary.

There is no reason for people to have a choice of whether or not there child should have so many more advantages than another. Genetic engineering should never be used to improve someone that is already perfectly healthy. The ethics involved in this issue are more general. People still say that the doctors would be “playing God”, and it is immoral. This can be said about all medicinal practices, but in the case of human enhancement I just don’t think it is necessary. Cloning is another form of genetic engineering that is not accepted as morally right.

For example, to clone a human heart scientists do not have to clone the whole person. They only need to clone the heart by itself [8]. This process of cloning would eliminate transplants and the use of anti-rejection drugs. I support cloning of an organ or tissues, but to clone a whole human being is wrong because it offers science little or no benefits. Not only that, it is not safe to clone a human. It took 277 tries to successfully clone Dolly the sheep. The safety regulations of cloning only extend to human cloning at the present time [6].

This is due to the fact that some abnormalities and failures have come about in this new technology. Safety of genetic engineering is something that presents much concern. Looking at the current precautions and previous precautions of the biotechnological industry can clear up the safety issue. Today the Federal and State Governments set many limitations on biotechnological industries. The FDA and State Governments impose limits such as the illegalization of human cloning and limits on other genetic engineering processes.

The only legal forms of genetic engineering that are used today are in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, and sperm banks [6]. Gene therapy is illegal because people should not be able to create the perfect child, but I think they should be able to correct a gene in a child if it has a chance of being born with Down syndrome. These sciences are not perfect but I think in a few years, it will greatly benefit the society. As long as there are government regulations of some kind once genetic engineering is reaching its potential then I don’t see any problems coming from it.

I do see a high demand for such procedures, but the positive impact on society could be remarkable. This is such a new technology that it is really tough to know its limitations and the time it is going to take for it to blossom into something that can be used safely and regularly. I believe that genetic engineering will definitely be most beneficial to society because it concentrates on curing diseases, helps people who could have been crippled with a disease to live a long and healthy life and could decrease poverty.

Bibliography

Spangenburg, Ray. Genetic Engineering: Open for debate. New York: Benchmark books, 2004. 10-30. Lewin, Seymour Z. “Nucleic Acids”. Microsoft Encarta [CD-Rom].

Microsoft Corporation, Funk ; Wagnalls Corporation, 1994. Tagliaferro, Linda. Genetic Engineering: Progress or Peril?. Lerner Publishing Group, 1997. History of Genetic Engineering, on the History of Science website, http://historyofsciences. blogspot. com/2008/09/history-of-genetic-engineering.html; accessed 28 September 2009 “Common genetic diseases. “

Genetic Diseases. WordPress, n. d. Web. 27 Apr 2010. http://www. genetic-diseases. net/common-genetic-diseases/. Glick, Bernard.

Molecular Biotechnology: Principles and Applications of Recombinant DNA. 4th ed. Washington, DC: ASM press, 2010. 240- 900. Print. Bohlin, Ray. Human Genetic Engineering. Leadership U, 14 06 2002. Web. 27 Apr 2010. . “The Legality Of Human Cloning. ” Human Cloning Foundation. http://www. humancloning. org/legality. htm

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