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Genetic Engineering Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 7 February 2017

Genetic Engineering

Genetic engineering otherwise called genetic modification and can basically be described as the ‘direct manipulation of an organism’s genome’ which is the complete set of genetic material of an animal, plant or other living thing. This direct manipulation works by using modern DNA technology. This ‘involves the introduction of foreign DNA also known as synthetic genes into the organism of interest’ or curiousity.

Genetic engineering does not include traditional animal and plant breeding, in vitro fertilization, induction of polyploidy, mutagenesis and cell fusion techniques that do not use recombinant nucleic acids or a genetically modified organism in the process. Cloning and stem cell research, although not considered genetic engineering, are closely related and genetic engineering can be used within them. Synthetic biology is an emerging discipline that takes genetic engineering a step further by introducing artificially synthesized genetic material from raw materials into an organism.

Outline at least 2 advantages & disadvantages of having this technology.

Advantages;

•Better Taste, Nutrition and Growth Rate; Genetically engineered crops are expected to have the capacity to grow on lands that are presently not suitable for farming. The manipulation of genes in crops is expected to improve their nutritional value as also their rate of growth. Biotechnology, the science of genetically engineering foods, can be used to impart a better taste to food’

•Pest-resistant Crops and Longer Shelf life; Engineered seeds are resistant to pests and can survive in relatively harsh climatic conditions. Biotechnology can be used to slow down the process of food spoilage. It can thus result in fruits and vegetables that have a greater shelf life.

•Boost Positive Traits, Suppress Negative Ones; Positive genetic engineering deals with enhancing the positive traits in an individual like increasing longevity or human capacity while negative genetic engineering deals with the suppression of negative traits in human beings like certain genetic diseases. Genetic engineering can be used to obtain a permanent cure for dreaded diseases.

Disadvantages;

•May obstruct Nutritional Value; Genetic engineering in food involves the contamination of genes in crops. Genetically engineered crops may supersede natural weeds. They may prove to be harmful for natural plants. Undesirable genetic mutations can lead to allergies in crops. Some believe that genetic engineering in foodstuffs can obstruct their nutritional value while enhancing their taste and appearance.

•May Introduce Harmful Pathogens; Horizontal gene transfer can give rise to new pathogens. While increasing the immunity to diseases in plants, the resistance genes may get transferred to the harmful pathogens.

•May Lead to Genetic Defects; Gene therapy in human beings can have certain side effects. While treating one defect, the therapy may lead to another. As one cell is responsible for many characteristics, the isolation of cells responsible for a single trait is indeed difficult.

How does this biotechnology affect society? Include how Christians have responded.

Genetic engineering is an extremely controversial issue without even considering the view of religions. Genetic engineering is when genes of a living thing are altered to create a variation, often beneficial, in that species and its future descendents. However, the issue is controversial, despite the benefits, for two main reasons. Firstly, the genetic modifications of animals and plants may have unfavourable and unpredicted effects or may be dangerous. Secondly, there are religious issues against genetic engineering; is it wrong to ‘play god’ by effectively creating and changing life?

“Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked?” Ecclesiastes 7:13. This question from the bible now has an answer. Knowledge of genetic engineering has advance so far that it may be very soon that it would be possible to genetically modify and embryo to be a ‘designer baby’. This could give the parents the ability to decide the sex of their baby, give them immunity to diseases or even change physical features such as eye colour. In 2005 laws were passed giving scientists approval to carry out experiments that could lead to the first genetically altered babies being born in Britain, showing how close we are to genetically modified humans.

The idea of modified people is extremely controversial. Not only is it potentially dangerous and against religious teachings of interfering with God but it also would be very expensive meaning only the wealthy could afford it. This could over time lead to physical differences between the rich and poor and would be likely to major social problems in the future with the rich becoming a disease resistant super-race. It would also make genetic engineering, babies and genes a commodity which could lead to numbers of issues.

Understandably there are many religious views against genetic engineering. Christian views against this include that the modifying of life is seen as ‘playing god’ as god created life and people in his own image, to modify the basic genetics would be suggesting that God was flawed. As all genetic engineering involves the usage and wastage of human embryos it is considered wrong by Catholics’ who believe life begins at conception and therefore life is being destroyed. This is against one of 10 commandments that ‘thou shall not kill’.

It also goes against the bibles teachings of the sanctity of life. However, there are Christian views for genetic engineering, particular those of liberal Protestants that believe genetic engineering is good if it is used to cure diseases. They believe this as Christianity teaches that Jesus was a healer and as God’s stewards it is our duty to make the world a better place. Therefore if we can heal people through genetic engineering then it is ok, also it may be acceptable for some Christians if the embryos are only used early on before they have a chance to develop. This would support the standing of the law as embryos cannot be regarded as potential human life until they are 14 days old.

Muslim beliefs are not that different from Christian ones. They too believe that only god can alter the genetic makeup of a person due to the sanctity of life. Also, like Catholics, Muslims believe embryonic research is the same as abortion; life begins at fertilisation and they do not agree with abortion. Scientists who try to create or alter life are attempting to replace god, something which is a great sin in Islam.

When looking at the religious arguments around genetic engineering it is very much down to a person’s interpretation of the teachings of the religion, as specific teachings were recorded about genetic modification as it was non existing at the time the Bible and Quran were written. In fact the religious arguments mostly focus on moral issues which concern everyone of any religion. Looking at genetic modification from a religious perspective is beneficial for the human race when considering how far we go. However, genetic modification should not be ruled out completely but instead used for things that will benefit the planet; medicines, food supply and better living standards.

I therefore disagree with the statement “Only God has the right to interfere with our genes” but I do believe there are limits to how far genetic modification should be used. Using it for purposes such as changing the eye colour of a yet to be born baby is completely unnecessary and will only lead to problems both with untested genetic modification and socially. In an extreme example only the rich, who could afford the genetic modification would benefit which could lead to physical as well as social differences between the rich and the poor. Even if this were not to be the case it would be wrong religiously and morally to begin changing insignificant things such as appearance when people still die of diseases which could be prevented by genetic modification

What are the ethical issues involved? There are also certain ethical issues of major concern that are involved with genetic engineering

“Playing God” has become a strong argument against genetic engineering. Despite all of these current concerns, the potential for genetic engineering is tremendous. However, further testing and research will be required to educate society on the positives and negatives to genetic engineering. With the newfound breakthroughs in cloning, the capabilities of changing human characteristics are unpredictable.

The most frightening scenario is the destructive use of genetic engineering. Terrorist groups or armies could develop more powerful biological weaponry. These weapons could be resistant to medicines, or even targeted at people who carry certain genes. Genetically engineered organisms used for biological weapons might also reproduce faster, which would create larger quantities in shorter periods of time, increasing the level of devastation.

Like many other things, genetic engineering is a two-edged sword. Actually using genetic engineering would eventually unleash all of its effects, both positive and negative. After genetic engineering starts being used, our society will not simply be able to “put it back”, “turn it off”, or otherwise remove it. Once it becomes reality, it will always be with us. A study of all of the effects of genetic engineering can lead to responsible use of the technology when it is fully developed. Right now, however, there are no specific limits on genetic engineering. We, as a society, are technologically ready to carry out genetic engineering, but we may not be ready for the responsibility or negative impacts it may bring.

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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 7 February 2017

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