The world is inundated by scientific innovations that are characterized by various dilemmas on whether to embrace the innovations or else retain the natural processes. Moral, environmental and legal issues arise as a result of scientific advancements in genetic and medical fields. Various advantages have arisen as a result although there have also been negative aspects such as the infringements of human rights. For instance, one’s privacy may be affected by such aspects as data banks which may offer easy access to patient’s information. Other psychiatric innovations are applied to torment political enemies. Moreover, biomedical advances allow genetic engineering which may affect such things as inheritance patterns which constitute evolution. These are some of the illustrations where science has been applied for the wrong intentions which threaten the wellbeing of society. This paper will consider the advances in the genetic field with special attention to genetic engineering.
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Genetic engineering is an advanced biotechnological process of artificially modifying the genetic composition of an organism such that natural processes are altered. A cell is the basic unit of all organisms that contains a nucleus. The nucleus contains chromosomes that store the genes or hereditary units usually encoded in DNA. The DNA controls the cell growth and manages the transmission of hereditary information from the parent to the offspring. Genes are hereditary units that are composed of DNA and have the necessary information for encoding proteins. These proteins are the core units in which a cell is dependent on their tasks. Genetic engineering purposes to reorganize the DNA sequence through artificial procedures such as chemicals, radiations, and molecular cloning, which enables to recombine genes even for different species that would otherwise not breed with each other (Parwez 2008).
Recombinant DNA procedures are incorporated in the host genome to produce Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO). This technique is employed in medical, biotechnology, and scientific research. Under the Human Genome Project, researchers are in the pursuit to map all the genes that man has. This way, the researchers will be in a position to determine the hereditary conditions and therefore be able to manage them (Spangenburg & Moser 2004). The biotechnological procedure is essential in repairing or substituting genes in a somatic cell. It enables the production of better organisms, efficient drugs in the pharmaceutical industry, and by extent, the production of Genetically Modified Food (GMF).
Genetic Engineering in Research and Medicine
Genetic engineering technology is applied in medicine in aiding in the mass production of insulin, vaccines, and immune system factors. Animal models are used in studies of diseases and curative drugs to be used. Also, gene therapy in man is done in such a way that the faulty genes are substituted with functional ones. It is done in germline tissue where the gene becomes inheritable to the offspring or in somatic tissue to handle certain cells. Gene therapy is advantageous since it can be used to manage immune-deficiencies and several genetic conditions. Clinical trials on the other hand have failed in some instances where legal and ethical issues are questioned. For instance, conditions due to genetic disorders e.g. autism are handled by gene therapy where disparaging expressions may appear thus, enhancing the condition.
However, gene therapy when done in an organism helps express a preferred trait that would otherwise be not possible and this is essential in managing such ailments as cystic fibrosis and diabetes. Therefore, genetic engineering is important in curing ailments that may be furthered to increase the life expectancy of a human by modifying the human genome to cause the desired effect. In research, genetic engineering is applied in bacteria which are modified to determine genes functionality through phenotypic expressions. This is done through adenoviruses which are attenuated viruses that are put inside the host’s system. Sometimes, the surroundings might not be favorable where the genes may combine with the adenovirus to produce undesirable traits such as becoming antibiotic-resistant. Also, the host may become prone to other complications or even die as a result.
Genetic engineering uses animals to conduct their experiments and this may violate animal rights. The animal activist has raised attention about the issue and is concerned about the fate of those organisms that fail to be modified. For instance, what will happen to the ‘natural’ organisms when there is the development of genetically modified ones? The modified organisms would outnumber the natural ones which would be disregarded. It would even be possible to make exact copies through selective breeding of these organisms which would decrease the genetic pool abundantly and the other natural ones would become extinct. Similarly, in other instances, altering the genetic compositions of embryos has been criticized as a violation of the fetus’s rights. It is not clear whether the parents have a right to determine this procedure, which may be used to curb certain illnesses. Some point out that the baby should develop naturally without any interference.
In this context, the affluent individuals may be favored to have their babies be born with peculiar advantages which may trigger competition and create a minority disadvantaged group of people whose content would be transmitted in the future generations. The financially disadvantaged individuals will just be dependent wholly on natural procreation and have offspring that are disadvantaged and therefore not able to fit well in the society. As a result, classes will appear not through racial differences, but through the genetic lines, with the gap being so diverse such that the human race will fall into various distinct species. Through the Human Genome Project, an individual’s genetic composition would be known which might cause discrimination. For instance, defects in genes might cause a person to not secure employment based on his or her genetic composition (Spangenburg & Moser 2004). Genetic elites and the ‘naturals’ will emerge which will cause genetic segregation in society. Besides, those organisms that have successfully been genetically modified acquires patent. This reflects that when a human modifies his genetic composition, he or she might also require to be patented. Or would it be just for the modified genes or would it be necessary to patent his or her offspring every time? These comprise some of the dilemmas that may arise with the continuity of genetic engineering.
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Genetic Engineering in Agriculture
In agriculture, genetic engineering is essential in the mass production of genetically modified food such as fruits, vegetables, and animal products. In this case, particular genes are taken from different species and are combined to create organisms with desirable traits ecologically, with better yields and have enhanced quality. Unlike the natural breeding procedures, different species that would otherwise not breed are made possible through the process of recombinant DNA (Wang et al 2003). Under such instances, there could arise genetic instability since there lacks nature’s way of regulating these organisms. As a result, the future of these GMFs is not certain since their ecological and health effects cannot be critically defined. Thus, there is a need to conduct further scientific research that could determine the precise impacts of these products. This field triggers ethical and health issues where the GMFs are thought to have health implications through intoxication or allergies. Also, the technology interferes with gene flow in organisms which is detrimental to biodiversity (Parwez 2008). Other questions that emanate from this involves the religious concerns, intellectual property rights, and socio-economic effects of what is referred to as the Frankenstein food.
On the other hand, these foods are advantageous since they could be modified to become cold, pest, drought, and weed resistant and at the same time achieve high yields of nutritionally quality organisms. In such cases, the food is not over-reliant on chemicals used to eradicate pests and others such as fertilizers this is essential in helping to safeguard the environment through the reduction of pollution. Some of these GMFs contain drugs and vaccines that aids in expressing certain genes such as those of enhancing growth and production of high yields that can be consumed by man (Wang et al 2003).
To sum it all, genetic engineering has several merits which include identifying organisms that are disposed to particular hereditary conditions and are sorted out to be made better. Through gene therapy, infectious conditions are cured through the production of antiviral proteins particularly to a given antigen. Besides, organisms could be altered to express desirable traits, for instance, plants are made to consume more carbon dioxide and therefore solve the issue of global warming. Finally, genetic engineering is applied to enhance genetic diversity to give genes that could be incorporated in other different organisms to express certain proteins. Conversely, genetic engineering may prove detrimental to nature. For instance, when the gene flow is interfered with within the natural environment, there could be permanent effects that could alter species or else be on the verge of extinction. Furthermore, moral concerns especially revolving around religion questions the right of man to alter the progress of nature and the ecosystems (Parwez 2008).
For these reasons, various governments are reluctant about the technology and legislations that regulate the extent to which it is undertaken are put to place. For instance, the European Union has provisions that require its member states to label all genetically modified food in the market and also ban imports of such food items. This is made possible because every, the individual has a right to his or her own opinion and choice that is accelerated by having such items labeled. In my opinion, then, there will be a need for man to adjust his lifestyle since the merits of genetic engineering outweigh the demerits and therefore, the technology should be embraced. This is because man has been granted the ability to discover such technology for his benefit. Therefore, opposing it on a religious basis would be ambiguous. Rejection of such a milestone in pharmaceutical, agriculture, and biotechnology could only reflect conservativeness of mind. Future ventures on the field may even promise a healthier, prolonged, and probably immortal life for all organisms. It will not only solve the global food issues but also may reestablish the already extinct species where only the best will flourish.
Parwez S. 2008. The Pearson Guide to the B.Sc. (Nursing) Entrance Examination. New Delhi: Dorling Kindersley (India) Pvt. Ltd.
Spangenburg R. and Moser K. 2004. Genetic Engineering: Open for Debate. New York: Marshall Cavendish Corporation.
Wang W., Vinocur B., and Altman A. 2003. Planta, Plant responses to drought, salinity, and extreme temperatures: towards genetic engineering for stress tolerance. Springer-Verlag, 218 (1), pp.1-14. Web.