Genetic EngineeringGenetic Engineering
Anti-technologists and political extremists
misinform, and over exaggerate statements that genetic engineering is not
part of the natural order of things. The moral question of genetic
engineering can be answered by studying human evolution and the idea of
survival of the fittest. The question of safety can be answered by
looking at the current precautions of the industry. The concept that
society needs to understand is that with the right amount of time and money
genetic engineering will help reduce disease and save countless lives.
Many people do not realize that genetic
engineering plays a role in many lives through out the world. Genetic
engineering includes artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, sperm
banks, cloning, and gene manipulation (Goetz 178). Synthetic insulin
is now available for use to treat diabetes. This man made insulin
has many positive aspects, which include its life span, cost to manufacture
it, and the amount that is available. The synthetic insulin lasts
two to three times longer than its natural form and costs substantially
less to manufacture than to extract it from an animal, primarily pigs.
One other benefit is the amount that can be manufactured. In pigs,
the scientists need to wait for it to mature to extract the insulin.
The synthetic source is completely man made and any amount can be manufactured
in large quantities.
The replication of insulin is not
the only way biotechnology is being utilized. Today people receive
synthetic hormones that their body cannot produce such as growth hormones,
thyroid, estrogen, and testosterone. Vaccines are also another form
of genetic engineering that has been used for many years. Vaccines
already protect against disease to a certain extent, but for a virus like
HIV, it is too risky to inject somebody with a vaccine. The reason
for this is because a vaccine is a solution that contains a dead or weakened
virus that has been synthetically prepared. Further work on a HIV
vaccine could save many lives and possibly eliminate the disease.
This biotechnology makes it possible for more people to live the lives
that would not have been available without genetic engineering.
Plants are also being genetically
engineered. This type of genetic engineering is more commonly accepted,
but why? It is no different for a plant to be able to fight off pests
then it is for a human to be able to fight off diseases. This is
a contradiction, because society is saying that it is all right for a plant
to be genetically engineered but not a human.
This new technology of genetic engineering
dates back to the 1950’s. IN 1951 three scientists, Francis Crick,
Maurice Wilkins, and James Dewey Watson, were credited with the discovery
of DNA. Later they were presented the Nobel Prize in physiology and
medicine in 1962. (Lewin 1) DNA is also known as deoxyribonucleic
acid and it carries a living organisms genetic code. The discovery
of DNA was the very beginning of genetic engineering. Today the science
of biotechnology has evolved to a much higher level, but is still many
steps away from completely correcting damaged or diseased genes.
The reason is partly to blame on the ignorance of society, because it believes
that genetic engineering is wrong. The part of genetic engineering
that is wrong is holding back the natural process of science evolution.
Some benefits are used in medicine
today, but the real benefits will come as genes can be altered more.
The real benefit that will help mankind is when bioengineers will be able
to replace a cancer or defective gene with a gene that does not have an
error in its genetic code. “The new science of genetic engineering
aims to take a dramatic shortcut in the slow process of evolution” (Stableford
25). What is meant by the previous quote is that scientists hope
to take a gene from an organism and change it so that it will be immune
to certain diseases and free from cancer. For example, many years
ago small pox was widely spread. Today it is almost nonexistent,
because of the evolution of man. The only problem with this was it
took hundreds of years for our genetic code to adapt and make our bodies
The moral question of genetic engineering
is answered by looking at the advances in medicine. Today the advancements
in medicine are evolving at an extremely high rate. If the science
of genetic engineering is wrong, then so are the rest of the advances in
medicine. The reason is because genetic engineering is just another
form of medical advancement. Gene manipulation is not going to be
used for any other purpose except for the treatment and elimination of
disease. The one thing that people need to realize is the potential
of genetic engineering. Try to visualize what parents of a child
is dying from a disease like multiple sclerosis think about the benefits
of genetic engineering. Do they think that it is morally wrong or
right? They think that it is right because it is going to save their
Cloning is another form of genetic
engineering that is not accepted as morally right. For example, to
clone a human heart scientists do not have to clone the whole person.
They only need to clone the heart by itself (http://www.humancloning.org/user/infertil/humancloning.html).
This process of cloning would eliminate transplants and the use of anti-rejection
drugs. It is; however, wrong to clone a whole human being.
There would be no purpose in cloning a person, because it offers science
little or no benefits. Some people say that if they could clone Albert
Einstein much more could be learned about science and the theory of relativity.
This is not true. If somebody is cloned, it does not mean it will
be the same person in every way. It only means that their genetic
makeup will be exactly alike. The environment in which they grow
up plays a major role in the development of the person’s personality.
Safety of genetic engineering is
something that presents much concern. Looking at the current precautions
and previous precautions of the biotechnological industry can clear up
the safety issue. Today the Federal and State Governments set many
limitations on biotechnological industries. The FDA and State Governments
impose limits such as the illegalization of human cloning and limits on
other genetic engineering processes. The only legal forms of genetic
engineering that are used today are in vitro fertilization, artificial
insemination, and sperm banks. Another form of genetic engineering
is the use of gene therapy. Gene therapy is illegal because people
should not be able to create the perfect child, but they should be able
to correct a gene in a child if it has a chance of being born with Down
syndrome. The safety precautions are in effect in order to save the
lives of unborn babies. Gene therapy cannot be used on humans until
it is perfected and there is little or no chance of failure. These
sciences are not perfect but give it a few years and it will be a great
benefit to the human race.
It is not safe to clone a human.
It took 277 tries to successfully clone Dolly the sheep. This should
not stop scientists from trying to clone organs that could save many lives.
Currently three states banned the cloning of humans. Among the states
are Michigan, Rhode Island, and California. The state banns will
stay in effect for five years in California and Rhode Island. Currently
there are three years and eight months left until the ban is lifted.
In the state of Michigan, if convicted of attempting or cloning a human
there is a number of penalties, including a ten-year prison sentence.
(http://www.humancloning.org/legality.htm) With this amount of time,
the scientists will have perfected the process of cloning and it will be
accepted more then it is now.
The safety regulations of cloning
only extend to human cloning at the present time. This is due to
the fact that cloning is not perfect and some abnormalities and failures
have come about in this new technology. Society cannot expect to
be perfect the first time it does something, but merely get better as they
practice. The more tests that are done on bacteria, plants, and organisms
the more effective genetic engineering will benefit human life in the future.
Scientists are also able to detect abnormalities in the cloned organism
before it has even started to develop. By monitoring the DNA of the
organism, scientists can decide if the clone will be able to further develop.
If it is not able to then the process can be terminated.
Society tends to have special concerns
about new technologies. This biotechnology is no exception.
Among the special concerns are birth defects and the stability of the organism’s
life. If a sheep or a plant is cloned or genetically altered, will
it have a stable and healthy life? The answer is yes. The reasoning
behind genetically engineered organisms is to create a healthy and more
stable life form. If it did make life forms unstable what would be
the purpose genetic engineering? Society also fears that this biotechnology
may get into the wrong hands and somebody could bring back a treacherous
person like Adolph Hitler. Cloning is possible and society knows
this. Even if it is illegal to clone a person, the technology is
available if somebody were to want to clone. The way people talk
about cloning is as if it does not exist and think they can prevent it
from ever happening. The sad fact is that it exists and people know
how to use it and if a terrible person wants to use it for the wrong reasons
they will do it no matter what. The only people that are being hurt
by the strict guidelines are the doctors and scientist who want to help
people. The criminals who use it for the wrong purposes are going
to keep doing it as long as they do not get caught.
As society reads increasingly about
genetic engineering, they seem to form views that are not based on facts,
but merely the opinions of a journalist. It is very easy to find
articles in News Week or on the Internet that support genetic engineering.
The thing that society needs to do is think about the facts and decide
if the benefits of genetic engineering out weigh the consequences.
Society tends to argue against genetic engineering using three main topics.
First, it is not a safe thing for mankind to do because it is not part
of the natural order of things. Many people also think it is letting
doctors and scientists play the role of God. Third, people believe
that scientists are trying to control something that man was not supposed
to control. All of the previous topics have little or no support
and were partly created because of society’s ignorance.
The most common defense that people give
for not accepting the science of genetic engineering is that it is not
part of the nature’s course. If this is the case then driving, flying,
wearing clothes and etcetera should be banned and people should be afraid
of this. As man has evolved from the earliest stages of Precambrian
times, it has introduced things that were completely unknown and not part
of nature. This includes fire, clothing, boats, automobiles, planes,
medical treatment, computers, and now genetic engineering. Genetic
engineering is just another evolutionary step in the great journey of mankind.
If the world could harness the possibilities of genetic engineering, it
would save many lives and prevent many diseases from ever developing.
Many people also think that this new biotechnology
is letting scientists and doctors play god. These doctors are not
trying to recreate human science; they are just trying to perfect its flaws.
Doctors and scientists have already helped diabetics with their synthetic
insulin, and unfertile parents are now able to have children. Those
that oppose genetic engineering because doctors are trying to play god,
do not realize what genetic engineering has already contributed to our
world. Society should research issues before forming an ignorant
Another opposing view to genetic engineering
is the idea that doctors and genetic engineers are trying to control something
that man was not supposed to be able to control. These ideas stem
from people’s fear and religious affiliation. This is based on opinions
that people have formed, once again, because of their ignorance towards
The fear that people have toward
genetic engineering is not new to science. Ever since the beginning
of science, man has been afraid of the unknown. Space travel and
flying were not widely accepted until the twentieth century and was completely
absurd just one hundred years ago. Today they are widely accepted
and are used everyday. Genetic engineering is in the first stage
of its discovery and will emerge in the twenty first century and will be
as accepted as is flying and space travel. The people of the world
should ease up on holding back the evolution of science and realize its
possibilities for future generations.
Clark, Bryan C. “Genetic Engineering”.
Microsoft Encarta [CD-Rom]. Microsoft Corporation, Funk ; Wagnalls
Goetz, Philip W., ed. The New Encyclopedia
Britannica. 15th ed. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1990
Lewin, Seymour Z. “Nucleic Acids”.
Microsoft Encarta [CD-Rom]. Microsoft Corporation, Funk ; Wagnalls
Stableford, Brian. Future Man.
New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1984.
“The Legality Of Human Cloning.” Human
Cloning Foundation. http://www.humancloning.org/legality.htm