Ethics Concerning Genetic Engineering

Ethics Concerning Genetic Engineering

Genetic engineering opens up exciting new possibilities but is steeped in controversy. The fact that it has had a beneficial impact on various aspects of life is beyond dispute. In agriculture, genetic engineering has improved strains and increased crops. It has made crops herbicide, disease and pest resistant.

In medicine it is responsible for several breakthrough therapies. If allowed to proceed untrammeled, genetic engineering could produce the perfect human genome. It could eradicate hereditary diseases and disabilities from improperly developed DNA strands. It could repair damaged organs or have them rebuild themselves.

The genetic code of humans has nearly three billion base pairs of organisms arranged in different sequences yielding somewhere around 25,000 genes. Some facet or trait in each human being is contingent on each gene. Variations in the coding of these genes determine each individual’s unique identity. Errors in sequencing of some genes produce hereditary disorders of which there are over four thousand known. These conditions may be degenerative or chronic or might remain latent to manifest themselves several generations later. Genetic engineering could identify and isolate or replace these defective genes. In doing so it removes the latent threat of diseases these genes pose. It would also stop them from being passed down to future generations.

The possibilities with genetic engineering are enormous. And yet the response is sharply divided with both camps entrenched and resolute. The controversy surrounding genetic engineering is one of ethics. Objections stem from ethical concerns -- both religious and secular -- and the implicit immorality of genetic engineering.

Some objections rise from interfering with genetic codes of humans -- in other words vehement objection to man playing God. The protesters maintain that life is sacred and should not be altered by human intent. Other objections lie in the intrusion into the inherent dignity of humans and other life forms.

While there are significant advantages to be obtained through genetic engineering, the main drawback lies in the long term threat to life and the environment hitherto unknown which may arise at some future date. Opponents of genetic engineering rely on the results of studies carried out on mice fed with genetically modified food. It is reported that there were adverse reactions including premature death.

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Ethics Concerning Genetic Engineering