Genetic Engineering: Altering the Face of Science for the Betterment of Society

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Genetic 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....
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