Nowadays, people strive to improve the quality of life, focus on higher accomplishments, and try to find new ways to overcome such social problems as diseases and hunger. In this context, genetic engineering seems to be the potential to improve the quality of life because of creating new and improved organisms.
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The term “genetic engineering” is usually used to describe the process of altering the cells in terms of their genes to develop specific traits typical for different organisms and combine these traits in one organism in order to improve certain features (Kempken & Jung, 2010, p. 12).
In this context, new cells and organisms receive the unique combination of traits that could not be achieved naturally. Thus, researchers state that genetic engineering is a new step in the development of humans’ knowledge about nature that has a lot of advantages for people in spite of its controversial character (Lawlor, 2013, p. 84).
From this point, genetic engineering can be discussed as having such potential benefits for the mankind as improvement of agricultural processes, environmental protection, resolution of the food problem, provision of the alternative treatment and new medicines, and effective transplantation of organs.
Benefits for the Field of Agriculture
Genetic engineering is often discussed in the scientific fields as the successor of animal and plant breeding in agriculture. People were always focused on improving the number of animals and the quality of crops and plants.
However, if the traditional selective or cross-breeding is based on the use of natural principles when organisms can combine their genes through natural contacts, genetic engineering is an artificial and more promising process (Kempken & Jung, 2010, p. 24).
For example, the mule is a result of cross-breeding that involved a donkey and a horse. Nevertheless, specialists in selective and cross-breeding are limited in terms of reproductive abilities and in the number of combinations.
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On the contrary, a bio-technician has no such limits because he mostly works with cells and can directly modify the genome. This exceptional ability to mix genes implies that a bio-technician can create unique combinations of genes that are not presented in nature (Lawlor, 2013, p. 84).
From this perspective, the potential benefits of genetic engineering in this field are the creation of the great amount of crops while using limited territories, the growth of the elite livestock, the improved qualities of plants, their resistance to drought and pests, and the decrease in the use of fertilizers important for improving the environmental protection.
Genetic Engineering as the Approach to Resolve the Food Problem
Modern researchers focus on findings ways to grow more crops, animals, and plants because it is often the only way to address the problem of hunger on the planet. Furthermore, while modifying plants and animals, scientists can take significant steps to create healthier food because combining genes and making necessary alternations, specialists can remove allergens and improve the nutritional value of products (O’Brien & Kranz, 2009, p. 112).
While having access to healthy food that is not harmed with chemicals, people can also become healthier (Miller & Spoolman, 2006, p. 84). In this context, genetic engineering is a new stage in making the life of people living all over the world better.
Genetic Engineering in Medicine
The reference to genetic engineering in the clinical environment is often discussed as an issue for debates because of ethical concerns. Still, the most promising benefit of utilizing genetic engineering and biotechnology is their use in treatment with the focus on a gene therapy to overcome genetic diseases, on transplantation of organs, and on the improvement of the human DNA.
Thus, genetic engineering can guarantee that necessary genes can be used to fight a certain disease and that damaged genes can be effectively replaced and repaired. Today, people have a chance to find an effective treatment for many genetic diseases, cancer, heart, and autoimmune diseases.
Pharmaceuticals that are results of genetic engineering are much superior in comparison to their antecedents (Stryjewska, Kiepura, Librowski, & Lochyński, 2013, p. 1076). Thus, the bio-engineered insulin extracted from cows or sheep and the human being growth hormone is important to address the problem of diabetes in the world.
Genetic engineering and biotechnology are also important to improve the process of pregnancy planning because many genetic diseases can be diagnosed earlier or even prevented. In addition, researchers are constantly developing approaches to improving such processes as the in-vitro fertilization in order to guarantee better results for future parents.
Researchers are also continuing the work with genes of embryos to make future babies look like their parents want (Miller & Spoolman, 2006, p. 129). The other important benefit of genetic engineering is the opportunity to use grown organs for transplantation instead of using donors’ organs. This approach is important to guarantee that all patients in need can receive the necessary organ easily.
In this context, the next stage is human cloning. Thus, cloning of mammals has been successful, and human cloning can become the result of a range of researches in the area of biotechnology and understanding of human DNA (O’Brien & Kranz, 2009, p. 34). Human cloning can answer a lot of questions for researchers while providing more benefits for health care, reproductive technology, and pharmacology.
Genetic Engineering as a Controversial Issue
In spite of the focus on the obvious advantages of genetic engineering, many researchers state that biotechnology may pose a great threat to the environment and human health. Genetic engineering has a significant potential to increase the human’s understanding of natural processes and use the knowledge in the sphere of medicine, but the active utilization of biotechnology resources can violate many ethical norms and religious beliefs.
In this context, the genetic experimentation can be discussed as a threat to the society (O’Brien & Kranz, 2009, p. 204).
However, in spite of the views of critics, it is important to note that genetic engineering provides a variety of opportunities for people to improve the quality of their life and reach the new stage of civilization’s development (Miller & Spoolman, 2006). The only important condition is the assessment and evaluation of all the pros and cons to predict unexpected effects.
In spite of being associated with a lot of prejudice, genetic engineering can be discussed as having many potential benefits for people to cope with numerous diseases and to address the key social problems. Nevertheless, although the field of genetic engineering and biotechnology promises many advantages and gains for researchers and for humanity, it is necessary to understand the limit while initiating new studies and experiments.
Kempken, F., & Jung, C. (2010). Genetic modification of plants: Agriculture, horticulture and forestry. New York, NY: Springer.
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Lawlor, D. (2013). Genetic engineering to improve plant performance under drought: physiological evaluation of achievements, limitations, and possibilities. Journal of Experimental Botany, 64(1), 83-108.
Miller, G. T., & Spoolman, S. (2006). Sustaining the earth: An integrated approach. Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole.
O’Brien, R., & Kranz, R. (2009). The unhealthy truth: How our food is making us sick – and what we can do about it. New York, NY: Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony.
Stryjewska, A., Kiepura, K., Librowski, T., & Lochyński, S. (2013). Biotechnology and genetic engineering in the new drug development. Part I. DNA technology and recombinant proteins. Pharmacological Reports, 65(5), 1075-1085.