Genetic Engineering Pros and Cons have been one of the hottest topics in life sciences. The first genetically modified organism to be created was a bacterium, in 1973. Genetic engineering applications are numerous now. It includes human genome improvement, birth defects treatment, gene therapy, genetic drugs, agriculture, food, dairy, veterinary, animal modeling, ecological control, material design, space biology, and technology.
The “sharing” of genetic material among living organisms is known to be a natural event. This phenomenon is known to be very evident among bacteria; hence they are called “nature’s own genetic engineer”. Such phenomenon is the inspiration of scientists in this endeavor.
According to a study published in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, one major problem regarding the rise of GM organisms is that they can cause a reduction in the biodiversity (the difference in the traits of organisms) of plants and animals in the environment. This means that the DNA among the individuals in an environment will be more similar, against the principles of diversity and evolution.
Indeed, genetic engineering will always have two opposite sides. While the possibilities of what science can create are endless and the harmful effects are also present. At present, it is important to know the Genetic Engineering pros and cons, the real risks and benefits that lie in how genome science is used.
Genetic Engineering Pros and Cons
Before discussing Genetic Engineering pros and cons in detail, let have a look at what Genetic engineering is?
Genetic engineering is the process of manually adding new DNA to an organism. The goal is to add one or more new traits that are not already found in that organism. Examples of genetically engineered (transgenic) organisms currently on the market include plants with resistance to some insects, plants that can tolerate herbicides, and crops with modified oil content. Genetic engineering is used by scientists to enhance or modify the characteristics of an individual organism.
Genetic Engineering Pros
Genetic engineering is as much benefit in human life as we think. It has many advantages:
- A variety of food crops and products have been modified in order to provide better nutrition for consumers. By inserting a gene that encodes for vitamin A to the gene of regular rice, scientists were able to create a new breed of rice plants called “Golden Rice“. Such discovery is very helpful to the diet of populations that consume rice.
- A common problem in farming and food production is the rapid infestation and rotting of crops. Using genetic engineering, scientists have already found a solution: by creating rot and pest resistant crops.
- Animals have also been modified in order to increase meat production. One example of a genetically modified animal for such purpose is the Belgian blue cattle which originated from Belgium, as the name suggests. These genetically engineered cattle have an impressive muscling known as “double muscling”. By inserting a gene that inhibits the production of myostatin (the protein that suppresses muscle growth), scientists were able to produce a new breed of cattle that has humongous body size ideal for meat production.
- In medicine, genetic engineering is used in order to produce various drugs like human growth hormone, insulin, and vaccines. Basically, a vaccine is a synthetic substance given in order to stimulate the production of antibodies and provide immunity against a certain disease. To do this, inactive forms of viruses or the toxins they produced are injected into the person being immunized.
- Through the course of time, genetic engineering is no longer limited to plants and animals alone. Surprisingly, a study published in the journal Nature showed that genetic engineering in humans is already being performed in a process called gene doping. Unlike the known process of “doping”, which involves the use of performance-enhancing drugs like growth hormones and steroids, gene doping involves the non-therapeutic use of genes and cells to improve athletic performance.
- Genetic engineering also is used for the purpose of having the baby with traits which you want. The term “designer baby” refers to a baby whose genetic makeup has been chosen in order to ensure that a certain gene will be present or to remove a certain unwanted trait. Although possible, this genetic technology has not yet been started because of continuing ethical debates.
Genetic Engineering Cons
There are several types of potential health effects that could arise from the insertion of a novel gene into an organism. Critics disagree with the methods of genetic engineering because of:
- The fear of unintended selection and any unwanted transfer of genes.
- There have already been several studies which suggest that the genetic engineering may have increased natural allergens in crops.
- The damaging effect of producing GM organisms is a condition called “antibiotic resistance“. In this phenomenon, the supposed target organisms of antibiotics change in a way that they eventually become resistant to the drug. As a result, they will continue to survive, causing greater harm.
- Loss of biodiversity in the environment means lower chances of adaptation and survival of organisms to the changing environment.
- The fear of the rise of “invasive species”.
- Economic consequences.
- Social and Ethical Concerns.
Human Genetic Engineering
Human genetic engineering is but one aspect of the overall field of Human Biotechnology. It is a fascinating aspect of Human Biotechnology with the power to improve everyone’s quality of life, healing all of our genetic diseases permanently. It carries the promise of enabling humanity to survive a wider range of environments on alien worlds ensuring our long-term survival. Human genetic engineering is coming. Science is about to solve some of the worst problems that can happen to people: cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, Alzheimer’s and the many other devastating results that can come out of the random genetic lottery that is the reproduction.
Genetic Engineered Food
Genetically modified foods, GM foods or genetically engineered foods, are foods produced from organisms that have had changes introduced into their DNA using the methods of genetic engineering as opposed to traditional crossbreeding. There are genetically engineered versions of tomatoes, poplars (for paper production) wheat and rice, but none are grown in the United States. The National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy estimates that 85 percent of U.S. corn is genetically modified.