Yin Ren. Designer Babies: The Pros and Cons of Genetic Engineering. MURJ Volume 12, Spring 2005.
Genetic engineering is the modification of an organism’s genome through direct human manipulation of the DNA using modern technology. Although classical genetic methods using selective breeding has been done by humans since thousands of years ago, the manipulation of genome of organism through advance technology has only emerged since 1970s (Wikipedia, 2011). By injecting a foreign gene into an organism, we can alter the properties of the organism to generate higher crop yields, more nutritious food and even production of therapeutic agents such as insulin. However, by date, no technological advancement has been without flaws. Genetic engineering also provides negative impact upon environment and human society. Gene for herbicide resistance may transfer to other plants and causing mutation and the spreading of super weed. Gene therapy, a treatment done to cure genetic diseases by introducing new genes to replace mutated ones, is still under development. The effect of the treatment is short-lived as for now. Moreover, the virus used as a vector the deliver the foreign gene may not be silenced completely, causing to multiply and damage the host. Furthermore, there are still a lot of moral issues under debate regarding genetic engineering being done on human.
The positive and negative effects of genetic engineering are the subject of Yin Ren’s Designer Babies: The Pros and Cons of Genetic Engineering. While the author mainly emphasizes on the pros and cons of designer babies, he also presents genetic doping or improvement of physical ability via genetic modification, and their ultimate effects on the human society in various aspects. In the introduction, Yin Ren briefly mentions about the topics the he is going to deliver. He said that genetic engineering shows potential to cure debilitating diseases, to enhance physical and mental ability, to “design” our babies and even create super human. However, due to our limited moral understanding regarding the genetic engineering and the problems it poses, there are many arguments between the proponents and opponents. In the opponents’ point of view, genetic engineering will create more problems instead of solving them.
Later, Yin Ren provides a little history regarding modern genetic engineering. Since 1970s, successful genetic changes had been done on mice and monkeys. In year 2001, the completion of mapping of over 97% of human genome had given us chances to modify our own genome. In 2003, first case of successful human germ line genetic modification is reported when fertility treatment pioneered by fertility doctor Jacques Cohen produced babies who inherited DNA from two different mothers. Most Americans were shown to oppose the research on human cloning and “super human” due to their fear.
The writer then examines the key issues surrounding muscle enhancement. He reports that the traditional methods to cure muscle cells deterioration such as rigorous physical therapy and usage of steroids are not suitable for people of all ages plus they may have some side effects. Gene therapy that is able to cure muscle loss is welcomed. He provides that research is done on mice such as the introduction of gene that reverses muscle deterioration into mice as well as the creation of “marathon mice”. On the contrary, the therapy accompanies certain risks on human as it is still in early developmental stage. Yin Ren mentions that most of the test subjects die upon receiving the foreign gene. Besides that, some athletes might want to try genetic doping to enhance their body. This devalues fairness, competition and athleticism. The author compares genetic doping to the widespread use of steroids in doping scandal during Olympics.
Next, the writer points out the use of genetic engineering in the...