Everybody wants to be perfect, to have a perfect life, car, wife or husband, job, children, to eat the best and most nutritional products, which will help to maintain perfect health. On the other hand, means to achieve that may be horrible and lead to nowhere; people become disappointed. To have a perfect job and thus much money to buy a perfect car means to work a lot, give all free time for work, but here emerge problems with children. They become lazy and spoilt because parents do not have time, they are busy at work. In some years, it may become a great problem; the gap between parents and children grows. Though, there is one way out: genetic engineering. A specialist may remove the so-called “bad” genes from a child's DNA, and insert good ones instead. Some say that it is not the best way out because genetic engineering is not well studied yet, that is why it may be dangerous. This paper is aimed to show both positive and negative sides of genetic engineering. There are scientists who are for and against genetic engineering and all of them have good arguments to support their points of view.
Anju Shandilya is for genetic engineering and she provides reasonable arguments for it in her article “Benefits of Genetic Engineering”. She states that it helps to clone human beings, to understand the structure of DNA, and, perhaps, make a human being better, not violent or angry, but instead creative, kind-hearted.
“Animals were cloned successfully, and scientists have completed the human genome project. This is making researchers from all over the world conduct experiments and theoretical researches on the question of facets of genetic engineering of human beings. Such researches help understand DNA structure and the role DNA plays in medicine and treatment of different disorders more profoundly” (Shandilya). On the one hand, the author is right in stating that genetic engineering will help humans become, perhaps, stronger and better. On the other hand, such experiments may come out of control, and nobody knows what will happen. Such experiments are too dangerous to be held in the twenty first century, when DNA structure and genes are not studied fully.
Genetic engineering also helps future parents, mothers and fathers, choose the features of their unborn child, and besides a child may be screened for inborn genetic diseases. Such screenings will help parents as well as doctors get ready for the delivery and to render all the necessary help (Shandilya). This statement has something in common with the previous one: in both cases the scientist proposes to interfere into the DNA structure, which can be very dangerous. This time, two lives may be in danger: a mother's and a baby's. If an unborn baby has a genetic disorder, it will be very difficult to cure it. Perhaps, symptoms may be cured, but genes with the disorder will be left. In this regard, Anju Shandilya refers to another benefit of genetic engineering, stating that the couple may choose how their child will look like even before the birth. In my opinion, it is wrong to think that if parents choose how their baby will look like when it is born, it will grow up and remain the same. As it was stated above, the problem is that scientists do not know everything about DNA and its structure and genes in general. Perhaps, genes will be changed, and parents will have exactly the baby they wanted; on the other hand, something may go wrong, and a baby will be born with a genetic disorder or will not have the features parents wanted to see. People are born to be parents and love their child the way he or she looks like. The point is that sometimes parents want to show that their child is cuter and lovelier than the others, that is why an unborn baby may become a part of parent's experiment. Anju Shandilya supports this idea: “In humans, the most promising benefit of genetic engineering is gene therapy which is the medical treatment of a disease wherein the defective genes are repaired and replaced or therapeutic genes are introduced to fight the disease” (Shandilya).
This benefit of genetic engineering is the most probable. There are some diseases that still cannot be cured; there is no treatment for them. If the scientists invent the way to cure such diseases by replacing a bad gene with a good one, it is worth doing that because such treatment may save a person's life. On the other hand, there is still a risk whether a «good» gene fights a disease or not and whether there is a possibility that a «good» gene, which will replace a «bad» one, will also become defective. The point is that is it senseless to remove genes over and over again because it will damage the DNA structure of a patient. In my opinion, such kind of treatment should not become the most preferable, it may be only an additional one; and if there are some visible results, such kind of treatment may become well-known and the main way of curing a disease.
In the article, the author gives the list of benefits of genetic engineering, which reveals that the advantages of such field of studies are not only theoretical, but genetic engineering may also be implemented in the ordinary life:
- Genetic engineering has helped decrease the usage of herbicides and pesticides in agriculture;
- Genetic engineering is useful in producing vaccines and medicines;
- Genetic engineering has helped produce new cultivars faster, and the way of their production is more predictable. Besides, the cultivar properties have been studied better than before;
- With the help of genetic engineering it is easier to produce sustainable agriculture;
- New kinds of genetically modified breeds have been produced. These breeds tolerate factory farming without any suffering.
- Genetic engineering is used to treat genetic disorders and cancer. Besides, it helps new body parts operate better (Shangilya). This list seems to be reasonable, and there are such benefits mentioned as treating cancer. Scientists from all over the world try to find methods that do cure this illness, but the treatment has not been invented yet. On the one hand, it is reasonable to believe that healthy genes may cure cancer by fighting the damaged or unhealthy ones; but, on the other hand, the experiments were not conducted on humans, just on test animals, and it is not fully proved that cancer cells in the human body may be defeated like that. Human body, as well as DNA, is more complex than an animal’s, but law forbids to carry out experiments on human beings, that is why there is some danger in being treated for cancer by means of genetic engineering.
In my opinion, there are more disadvantages than advantages in genetic engineering. Tiuja Lehto and Mati Häyry in their article «Genetic Engineering and the Risk of Harm» prove that this applied science causes not only health problems, but may also become dangerous for political and social life of people:
The purely social and political dangers of genetic engineering include the possibility of increased economic inequality accompanied by an increase in human suffering, and the possibility of large-scale eugenic programmes and totalitarian control over human lives. The risk in these cases is clearly moral rather than technical (Häyry and Lehto).
If genetic engineering develops as fast as it has been developing in the last decades, soon it will be possible to give birth to a super human. In its turn, this may lead to totalitarian regime in the world or wars between those super humans. On the other hand, the gap between the poor and the rich will increase because, as genetic engineering is a rather expensive field of studies, rich people will pay a lot of money to modify their genes not to become old or get ill or to become very strong; the poor will suffer because they feel this difference now and they will feel it more when it will be visible who is rich and who is poor. Besides, if nowadays poor people have an opportunity to earn money and become rich some day, in the future it will become impossible because rich people will become the best and the smartest.
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If all the defectives genes of a human being are replaced with the healthy ones, no genetic diversity will be left on the Earth. All human beings will have the same genome; that is why life may become dangerous. If a virus appears, there will be no treatment against it, and that will damage health greatly. In some time, all human beings will be dead because there will be no diversity, all human beings will have the same DNA structure and type; that is why it may become dangerous for humans (biotecharticles.com). Everybody knows about the “law of the jungle,” which states that the strongest survives. Despite the times have passed and the civilization has developed since then, this principle still works. The strongest, healthiest people are more respected; people around them want to look alike. The leader of a country, of a nation should be innately strong, and not become genetically modified to get the desirable position. On the one hand, replacing a gene is considered to be a benefit, but, on the other hand, if all people replace genes and, perhaps, become immortal, the Earth will be overpopulated; people will kill each other for a spare square meter.
John E. James, as well as Anju Shandilya, also presents a list but he considers disadvantages of genetic engineering:
New kinds of food were produced using genetically modified components. This may lead to appearing of new allergens (James). It is proved that the more new kinds of products appear on the world's market, the more people become allergic. The same may happen when a person takes medicine which was made by means of genetic engineering against a disorder and develops an allergy. The point is that such a medicine is the only way of treatment of such disorder, and a patient, instead of being cured, will acquire allergy and will never be healthy again.
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Genetically modified products may distort the balance of microorganisms in the stomach and “thereby disrupt the normal digestive processes” (James). In my opinion, genetically modified food is the worst of all the products of genetic engineering. Such food not only harms the balance of micro-organisms, but it may also damage DNA of a human. On one hand, genetically modified food looks better and can be kept longer; on the other hand, it is dangerous even to taste it because a person may have problems with stomach and if he or she has some genetic disorder, it is much worse. Such a food product may damage health. There were registered some cases when a person ate a genetically modified food without knowing that he or she had a latent genetic disorder; and such a combination made the process faster and thus a person became handicapped.
Some scientists state that genetic modification of plants may come out of control and thus may be dangerous for human lives. The scientists from Europe, for example, performed an experiment with rape plants which were genetically modified. It appeared that plants have changed the chemical composition of nectar, and this led to increasing of mortality among bees which collected this nectar. “The same criticism has been expressed in respect to the adverse effect on the ladybug as a result of the use of genetically engineered corn that contains a natural insecticidal toxic” (Ib). It is proved that genetically modified products influence not only people but also animals and insects; and this study conducted by European scientists proves that plants are also influenced by genetic engineered chemicals. The author states that rape plants changed their “foraging pattern” and thus the mortality of bees increased. The danger for human beings is that not only rape plants may be genetically modified. It was mentioned above about food products, but there was an opportunity to buy fresh products at the markets, and after this experiment it may become dangerous to buy even vegetables at farmers'.
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There is a danger that the overuse of genetic engineering in agriculture may lead to developing resistance to certain toxins by insects. In the future, such toxins will cease to be effective as the organic insecticides are now (James). This statement proves the theory about viruses: the more effective treatment exists, the more steady microorganisms are to the virus. The same may happen with plants and insects. If farmers use genetically modified chemicals, insects will get used to them and treat it like something natural. On the other hand, genetically modified chemicals are the most effective, thus, in the future there will be no other way left, there will be no chemicals against insects, and, perhaps, harvests will be fully destroyed.
A study conducted in the New York University shows that genetically modified toxins may accumulate in soil and be resistant to decomposing for several decades. Besides, those toxins will still have the ability to kill insects. “According to critics, active toxins which might build up over a period of time, could kill soil insects that have a known BT sensitivity, whether they are harmful to crops or not.” (James) I agree with the author that this is a significant disadvantage of genetic engineering. First of all, genetically modified chemicals do not decompose in soil; they accumulate there, which may be dangerous not only for insects living underground, but also for the plants that will grow on that territory in future. Besides, such chemicals may emit toxins, which is dangerous not only for plants and insects; and, as they do not dissociate, in some decades the chemicals may reach the ground waters, and then sea and ocean waters, which will pollute the World's Ocean and damage the sea life.
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Other scientists state that there is a high possibility that there is a transfer from the genetically modified plants to weeds. For instance, there is a fear that genetically modified plants may produce their own toxins, which can also be transferred to weeds. It will make it more difficult to control the growth of weeds (James). Weeds always grow near the healthy plants, and every farmer knows how difficult it can be to destroy them. As the roots of plants and weeds may be tangled, it may occur that weeds cannot be destroyed by pesticides and other chemicals, as well as by genetically engineered chemicals. Weeds will grow influencing the vegetation of plants; that is why neither plants nor weeds should be processed by genetically modified chemicals.
“The transgenic effect, transference of genetic traits from one plant to its close relative, also raises issues with respect to a new line of plants which are designed with the help of genetic engineering to produce seeds that are sterile and incapable of reproduction. The doomsday scenario associated with this technology is that pollen from the so-called "suicide" plants could drift with the wind and cross-pollinate with ordinary crops or wild plants, and spread from species to species until plants all across the globe become suddenly and irreversibly sterilized” (James).
There are concerns that the combination or transfer of genes from one species to another could have unforeseen consequences. Thus, the critics argue that the scientists who are splicing human genes into pigs, fish genes into tomatoes, and insect genes into potatoes have not fully explored the implications for human health and safety of those genetic transfers (James). I agree with John E. James because the structure of DNA of a human being cannot be compared to that of a cucumber or a pig. Human beings are more complicated, it is more difficult to see relations between genes and how they modify during the evolution. It is proved that it is impossible to crossbreed a human being with another species, for example, a mammal or a fish. Perhaps, all the living beings on the Earth have a resembling structure; there is a hierarchy of the DNA structures, from the simplest and to the most difficult ones — human beings.
Genetic engineering becomes more popular day by day. People think that it may solve their problems, make them better, stronger, smarter, make them perfect, but that is not true. This research paper shows that there are more disadvantages than advantages in this field of studies. On the one hand, genetic engineering may help dreams of many people come true, for example, average-looking parents will have cute children or unhealthy parents will have a healthy child; or vice versa: healthy parents, who have an unhealthy child, will be able to treat him or her. On the other hand, everything is not as it seems. Genetic engineering may damage not only physical, but also moral state of a person; it may even destroy somebody's life. A person may hope to be cured by inserting a healthy gene in his or her DNA structure, but then a patient becomes disappointed if it does not help, and the situation may become worse. Genetic engineering is a relatively young field of studies; therefore, the risk is not studied well.
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It is known that money is one of the most valuable things in today's world; money is involved in every sphere of people life. Genetic engineering is not an exception, and the most significant example is genetically modified food, which is cheaper and can be kept longer. Such organizations as Green Peace strike against selling products with genetically modified components, but it brings little success. Manufacturers state that genetically engineered food is not dangerous for human health, although it is not proved yet. In my opinion, experiments with genes should be prohibited, because, first of all, there is no evidence that genetic engineering is not dangerous for human health because it is prohibited by the law to experiment on people. Secondly, no one knows what consequences can emerge because, as it has already been mentioned, genes are very specific, and it takes much time and effort to understand the DNA structure as a whole, without dividing it into separate genes. Genetic engineering may help people become better, but, on the other hand, people are greedy and do not want to share. Every human being wants to be the best, the one and only leader, and thanks to genetic engineering it may become possible soon. On the other hand, it seems like playing God, and it may lead to destruction of the planet.