General studies


Task: Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages of genetic engineering with specific reference to Gattaca?


Gattaca, a film, takes place in the near future, in a time when genetic engineering technology is used is used to create a perfect society. Gatttaca’s main character, Vincent, is genetically inferior; he was conceived by natural birth, rather than genetically engineered, which means that throughout his life is guaranteed discrimination. Vincent has dreams of becoming a scientist at Gattaca, but being of natural birth, he has almost no chance of ever working there.


During the later stages of the 20th century, man harnessed the power of the atom, and not after, soon realised the power of genes. Genetic engineering is going to become a very mainstream part of our live eventually, because there are so many possibilities advantages and disadvantages involved. Here are some of the advantages:


Diseases could be prevented by detected by detecting people/plants/animals that are genetically prone to certain hereditary diseases, and preparing for the inevitable. In addition, infectious diseases can be treated by implanting genes that code for antivirus proteins specific to each antigen.


Animals and plants can be “tailor made” to show desirable characteristics. Genes could also be manipulated in trees for example, to absorb more CO2 and reduce the treat of global warming.


Genetic Engineering could increase genetic diversity, and produce more variant alleles, which could also be crosses over and implanted into other species. It is possible to alter the genetics of wheat plants to grow insulin for example.


Of course, there are two sides to the coin; here are some possible eventualities and disadvantages:


Nature is an extremely complex inter-related chain consisting of many species linked in the food chain. Some scientists believe that introducing modified genes may have an irreversible effect with consequences yet unknown.


Genetic Engineering borderlines on many moral issues, particularly involving religion, which questions whether man has the right to manipulate the law and course of nature.


Genetic Engineering may be one of the greatest breakthrough in recent history alongside the discovery of the atom and space fight, however, with the above eventualities and facts above in hand, government have produced legislation to control what sort of experiments are done involving genetic engineering. In the UK there are strict laws prohibiting any experiments involving the cloning of humans. However, over the years here are some of the experimental “breakthroughs” made possible by genetic engineering.


At the Roslin Institute in Scotland, scientist successfully cloned an exact copy of a sheep, named “Dolly”. This was the first successful cloning of an animal and most likely the first occurrence of two organisms being genetically identical. Note: Recently the sheep’s health has deteriorated detrimentally.


Scientists successfully manipulated the genetic sequence of a rat to grow a human ear on its back. (unusual, but for the purpose of reproducing human organs for medical purposes)


Most controversially, and maybe due to more liberal laws, an American scientist is currently conducting test to clone himself.


Genetic Engineering has been impossible until recent times due to the complex and microscopic nature of DNA and its component nucleotides. Through progressive studies, more and in this area is being made possible, with the above examples only showing some of the potential that genetic engineering shows.


For us to understand chromosomes and DNA more clearly, they can be mapped for future reference. More simplistic organisms such as fruits fly (Drosophila) have been chromosome mapped due to their simplistic nature meaning they will require fewer genes to operate. At present, a task named the Human Genome Project is mapping the human genome, and should be completed in the next ten years.


The process of genetic engineering involves splicing an area of a chromosome, a gene, which controls a certain characteristic of the body. The enzyme endonuclease is used to split a DNA sequence and split the gene from the rest of the chromosome. For example, this gene may be programmed to produce an antiviral protein. This gene is removed and can be placed into another organism. For example, it can be places into bacteria, where it is sealed into the DNA chain using ligase. When the chromosome is once again sealed, the bacteria are now effectively re-programmed to replicate this antiviral protein. The bacteria can continue to live a healthy life, though genetic