Last Updated 22 Jun 2020

Genetic Engineering Is the Key to a Better Future

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In February 1997, Dolly, the first mammalian clone was born in Edinburgh, Scotland (Wilson, 2003, p104). With this achievement, the public starts to give attention towards the study of genetic engineering and recombinant of DNA. Since that successful achievement onwards, people, governments and organizations had been aroused by the genetic engineering issues. The consequences of this debate had been a public protest against the use of such experimental procedures – genetic engineering.

The exploration of genetic engineering is just the beginning and this field of study should not be protested because it has a lot of advantages to improve the quality of life for all. The discovery of DNA was the very beginning of genetic engineering. Before that, what is genetic engineering? Genetic engineering is also known as genetic modification which is the human manipulation of organism’s genetic material in a way that does not occur under natural conditions. It involves the use of recombinant DNA techniques, but does not include traditional animal and plant breeding or mutagenesis.

Besides that, it is also the use of various methods to manipulate the DNA (genetic material) of cells to change hereditary traits or produce biological products. The techniques include the use of hybridomas (hybrids of rapidly multiplying cancer cells and of cells that make a desired antibody) to make monoclonal antibodies; gene splicing or recombinant DNA, in which the DNA of a desired gene is inserted into the DNA of a bacterium, which then reproduces itself, yielding more of the desired gene; and polymerase chain reaction, which makes perfect copies of DNA fragments and is used in DNA fingerprinting (Arora, 2007).

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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 (Wilson, 2003, p1 & p11). Later, they were presented the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine in 1962 (Lewin, 1984). DNA is also known as deoxyribonucleic acid and it carries a living organism’s genetic code. The discovery of DNA was the very beginning of genetic engineering. Later they were presented the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine in 1962.

In 1972 Paul Berg created the first recombinant DNA molecules by combined DNA from the monkey virus SV40 with that of the lambda virus. The first genetic engineering company, Genentech, was founded by Herbert Boyer and Robert Swanson in 1976. Genetic engineering could be used to enhance people’s lives by its application to plants and animals used for food (Wilson, 2003, p115). Genetic engineering should be allowed to progress because of the potential benefits for the human species. For example, it will be possible for cows to will be genetically engineered to produce pharmaceuticals in their milk.

This means that vaccination shots and pills would become obsolete. Babies could be brought up immune to diseases by simply being fed this milk. Imagine the impact on the quality of life for people who live in third world countries like Somalia. Countries could be made healthy and immune to disease. Malnutrition, a common problem in many third world countries "where impoverished people rely on a single crop such as rice for the main staple of their diet" (Whitman, 2000), could also possibly be cured with genetic engineering.

Rice does not provide all of the nutrients that the body needs in third world countries and other food is very scarce. If rice or bread, another major staple, is genetically engineered to contain additional necessary vitamins and minerals then we could go a long way towards wiping out malnutrition all over the world. In addition, farmers who breed plants and animals specifically can be engineered to produce more meat or fruit, faster and easier than normal, then food would become cheaper and more plentiful. Furthermore, better tasting and more nutritious foods, fruits and vegetables with desired qualities can be produced.

The area that stands to benefit the most from genetic engineering is medicine. Organ transplants and cosmetic procedures, like silicone breast implants, that may cause disease would soon cease to exist. Instead of using materials foreign to the body for such procedures, doctors will be able to manufacture bone, fat, connective tissue, or cartilage that match the patient's tissues exactly, thus ensuring that the needed tissue will be free of rejection by their immune system. Victims of terrible accidents who deform the face and body would be able to have their features repaired with new and safer technology.

Limbs for amputees would be regenerated and anyone would be able to have their appearance altered to their satisfaction without the risk of leaking silicone gel into their bodies, or the other problems that occur with present day plastic surgery. Because genetic engineering will insure acceptance by the body, those in desperate need of organ and other transplants will one-day have their prayers answered by cloning. Using one's own cells to grow whole organs will eliminate the need for organ donors and waiting lists. Skin, brain cells, hearts, lungs, livers, and kidneys could all be produced.

Those who suffer from spinal injuries, like Christopher Reeve, might one day be able to get out of their wheelchairs and walk again. Genetic engineering also has the power to cure infertility, which a painful reality that many couples throughout the world face. "The current options for infertile couples are inefficient, painful, expensive, and heart breaking" (Human Cloning Foundation). Many couples run out of time and money without successfully having children. According to the Human Cloning Foundation, less than 10 percent of the current infertility treatments are successful.

Genetic engineering could make it possible for many more infertile couples to have children than ever before by boosting success rates through nuclear transfer of sperm from the father into the mother's egg, thus creating a beautiful unique child. The exploration of genetic engineering is just the beginning but most of the society is totally against this field of study. Most of them states that genetic engineering is not part of the natural order of things. The concept that society needs to understand is that with the right amount of time and money, genetic engineering will help to reduce diseases and save many lives.

Many people do not realize that genetic engineering plays a vital role in many lives throughout the world. Genetic engineering includes artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, sperm banks, cloning, and gene manipulation (Goetz, 1990). Synthetic insulin is now available for use to treat diabetes. This man made insulin has many positive aspects, which include its life p, the cost to manufacture it and the amount that is available. The synthetic insulin lasts for two to three times longer than its natural form and costs substantially less to manufacture than to extract it from an animal.

One other benefit is the amount that can be manufactured. In animals, 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. With the technology genetic engineering, this biotechnology makes it possible for more people to live. Other than insulin, 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. Besides part of the natural order of things, people do question about the moral aspects. The moral question of genetic engineering is answered by looking at the advances in medicine. Today the advancements in medicine are evolving at 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 child’s life.

Cloning is another form of genetic engineering that is not accepted as morally right. According to Gunter Kahl (2009), “Clone is a group of genetically identical cells or organisms originating from one single ancestral cell or organism. The term ‘Clone’ originates from Greek word ‘Klon’, which means ‘twig’ ”. For example, to clone a human heart, scientist does not have to clone the whole person. They only need to clone the heart by itself. There would be no purpose in cloning a person, because it offers science little or no benefits.

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 also something that presents as a concern. 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 the effect in order to save the lives of unborn babies. Gene therapy cannot be used on humans until it is perfected and when there is not even little or no chance of failure.

These sciences are not perfect but giving it a few years to improve it then it will be a great benefit to the human race. Cloning is also related to the safety issue in genetic engineering. In terms cloning, it is not safe to clone a human. It took 277 trials 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.

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. With this amount of time, the scientists will have perfected the process of cloning and it will be accepted more than 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 may 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. With all the benefits mentioned earlier, genetic engineering does bring a lot of advantages for all. However, most people throughout the world still feel that the issue of genetic engineering is unethical (Wilson, 2003, p133).

Even though genetic engineering is a new aspect of our technological research, it should, at all costs, be allowed to develop further. The possible benefits from genetic engineering are endless. Genetic engineering, then, is a tool that humans can use to cure many of their problems. The possibilities are endless if only we do not let ourselves be restricted by those who are afraid of the unknown. The people of the world should ease up on holding back the evolution of science and realize its possibilities for future generations.

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