What are the limits of Genetic Engineering?

3rd Quarter Seminar

25 March 2004

What is genetic engineering? Genetic engineering is the alteration of an organism\'s DNA, or genetic, material to eliminate undesirable characteristics or to produce desirable new ones. The most controversial form of genetic engineering, by far, is cloning. Cloning is another technology that has evolved out of genetic research. While genetic engineering usually adds or removes just one or two genes, cloning involves reproducing all of an organism’s genes (Tagliaferro 21). A clone is an exact genetic replica of an organism, having the same exact DNA makeup. Understanding what genetic engineering and cloning are is important knowledge, but the most important questions are what the ethical, moral, legal, and biological issues are that deal with genetic engineering and cloning. I will discuss my person opinions about all of the issues of genetic engineering. You cannot forget that this is person opinion and not fact, as the majority of cloning is illegal, and most of these fields of exploration are, well, unexplored.

I do believe that genetic engineering should be allowed, to a certain extent. I also believe that cloning should be legal, to a certain extent. However, you cannot please everyone and though some of these things may be legal, to others they might not be moral.

Currently, the trend is to genetically engineer plants for resistance to disease and increased food production; animals for new, advanced, and revolutionary medicines. This should be allowed; however there is always the possibility that the balance of nature could be changed by genetically enhanced plants. Insects will not be a problem for crops anymore; plants with altered genes have already been tested indestructible where normal crops have been eaten away. Harvesting medicine from animals, such as hemoglobin from pigs, will eventually become unnecessary since we will be able to alter our own genes. Human genetic engineering could very well be the cure for the most widespread and devastating diseases in the world: cancer, HIV, AIDS, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, you get the idea. If you already have the disease, you can alter the genes necessary to stop the disease. The best thing possible would be, if there were a family history of a certain disease, to alter the gene before the onset of the disease. This form of genetic engineering should definitely be allowed. Human genetic engineering could also enhance or improve “good” traits - for instance an extra copy of the human-growth-hormone gene could be added to increase height (Wekesser 155). I don’t think that a growth hormone should be allowed, unless someone is a naturally born a dwarf, since there have been reports of nasty side effects from those who have unnecessarily take the hormone. The long-term effects of gene splicing are still unknown. It is a dangerous process, and horrific accidents could occur. For those who would like to pick and choose their children’s genetic makeup (facial features, build, etc.), there could be mutations (cue images of radioactive ants) of any kind. I do not believe that “made-to-order humans” should be allowed, for then there would be less and less cultural diversity, and people would become more susceptible to certain strains of disease, which, to an extreme extent, could be like giving out nuclear weapons. The good points of heredity would be erased, since we would turn into superhuman genetically enhanced cyborgs. No matter what anyone says, altering human evolution is not a good idea (unless to eliminate certain hereditary diseases). Strength enhancement for sports and the like should not be allowed, since they share the same dangers as steroids. I do not believe that we should genetically enhance our intelligence, either, but research and exploration of the unused part of our brain (around 90%) would be allowed, also with anything else to forward the knowledge of our surroundings and ourselves. I have created 10 rules and regulations regarding the laws surrounding genetic engineering. This essay is my formal opinion on all issues, moral and lawful, surrounding genetic engineering.

10 Rules and Regulations Regarding Genetic Engineering

o Cloning may be used only if it is absolutely necessary.
o The family may make the decisions for the patients.
o The doctor or geneticist must have a special license for cloning.