The ethics of genetic engineering - Sample Essay

Genetic engineering is the artificial modification of the genetic code within a living organism. Genetic engineering allows for physical changes in the subject beyond what would be considered ‘naturally’ occurring. Genetic engineering occurs usually when genes are taken from one organism and inserted into another. Some of the resulting effects become known, but most stay hidden, manifesting as long term mental effects usually. The known effects are usually short term – physical and noticeable. Ones first insight into genetic engineering may be that it is a solution to all of society’s ills and the world’s problems.

People could fashion themselves a perfect child – a perfect world could exist, theoretically. The truth is far from that concept as we are still today not sure of the many side effects genetic engineering may cause. Genetic engineering has been an incredibly controversial issue since 1997, when Dr Ian Wilmut first revealed his cloned sheep – Dolly. Dolly shared the exact genetic makeup of her mother, and looked exactly as her. However, this success was in some ways regarded as a failure; dolly was the only success of 245 attempts. Another field of genetic engineering is that of genetically modifying crops and plants.

Critics say that GM crops are unethical because the crops threaten the environment. Genetically engineered crops may devastate the environment. Triple herbicide resistant weeds have already mutated, making it necessary to use abnormally strong weed killers. 4 Crops provided with bacterial genes that allow them to make their own pesticides, for example, may result in the death of harmless insects. This has the potential to escalate on a large scale, affecting a fine balanced food chain. Genetically engineered food crops, furthermore, may cause unexpected allergic reactions or other harm to human health and safety.

Believers of the GM crop, however, claim that these threats are exaggerated and any claims that GM crops have any sort of negative effects are unproven. These people are against any sort of specific label warnings as the GM crops should not be considered different. 1 A second ethical issue in agricultural biotechnology are big corporate names attempting to encourage poor farmers in developing countries to grow GM crops. These companies expect the farmers to ignore traditional methods of farming and to buy new seeds every year from the GM seeds suppliers at inflated prices, instead of reusing seeds from the previous years.

The opposition claims that pushing these crops into the developing world will enrich companies at farmers’ expense and won’t really address the poverty and inequality that are the real roots of world hunger. Supporters however, say that, GM crops offer the world’s best chance to end hunger and malnutrition around the world. One example is “golden rice,” genetically engineered to provide extra vitamin A and therefore prevent a form of blindness, caused by a deficiency of vitamin A, – a widespread problem in developing countries. 2

Although we are not still not aware of most of the possible devastations that genetic engineering could cause, farmers and scientists have noticed that cows which have genetically modified hormones to produce more milk, live shorter lives and suffer high rates of lameness and reproductive health problems. Cloned and genetically engineered animals have staggering failure rates, at 99% mortality. 3 One of the biggest advantages of genetically engineered bacteria is that they can make exactly the protein needed, in exactly the amounts needed and in a very pure form.

An example could be people with diabetes. People who suffer from diabetes need supplies of the hormone insulin. Insulin used to be extracted from the pancreases of pigs and cattle. This insulin was not quite the same as human insulin and the supply was relatively variable. With the introduction of the genetic engineering, we can create genetically modified insulin in plentiful bounties. The way this works is that an insulin gene is out of a human cell containing it and a plasmid is taken out of a bacterium and split open by an enzyme.

The insulin gene extracted earlier is inserted into the plasmid with the aid of another plasmid. This plasmid is then accepted into back into the bacterium where the bacterium multiplies producing multiple copies of the insulin gene which is then harvested and used to treat diabetics. Genetic engineering testing on animals is another widely debated subject, one which is based on opinion more than anything else. The facts involved however, are unmistakeable and give us a new insight into genetics.

The ability to insert or delete genes in the genomes of mice has assisted in unravelling complex developmental processes in which genes are switched on and off, and tissues become differentiated. By genetically modifying farm animals in Britain, we gain a better understanding of disease processes and mechanisms of resistance in livestock such as chickens and for example we can genetically modify animals’ milk to produce anti-trypsin which can be used to treat hereditary emphysema and cystic fibrosis. 5 There is a spectrum of opinion regarding human interests over animal interests.

One side is that human interests do not outweigh animal interests and one is that they do. The latter view is that it is wrong to conduct experiments on humans, when we have a wide variety of animals to test on. The former view is that animals could have consciences and subjecting them to experiments may be morally demeaning. Genetic engineering could potentially one day, be the solution to every feasible problem we have in today’s society. Some people will probably see this genetically modified “future” as an impossible thought, if humans continue to stay true to the ethics of GE standard we have today.

As of now, we still cannot tell whether GE will be welcomed in the future, considering the many objections we still have today. http://www. echeat. com/essay. php? t=27203 – 1 http://www. enotes. com/ethics-genetic-article – 2 http://www. safeage. org/animalw. htm – 3 http://www. safeage. org/enviroimpact. htm – 4 http://www. boyd-group. demon. co. uk/genmod. htm – 5 ?? ?? ?? ?? Mehdi Missous 10RN Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Variation and Inheritance section.