AllFreeEssays. com controversy over genetic engineering Dolly was a sheep that was the first living clone in its time, not a country music star from Tennessee. This was a magnificent feat but what did it mean? To some it meant a world of possibility, to others it meant havoc. Who is right? Who is wrong? These questions are unanswerable which results in a never-ending controversy.
This controversy over the benefits and dangers of genetic engineering in humans, animals and plants will live on forever. There are many benefits of genetic engineering. At the forefront of these benefits is preventing and curing illnesses. Imagine beating chronic, fatal diseases before they strike.
Think of the lives, money, suffering and effort that could be saved if doctors could identify individuals that are genetically stricken with heart disease, cancer and many other diseases. Take cancer for example. Scientists are working on a way to alter the processes of the body's own immune system so that white T-Cells will attack cancerous tumors (see appendix I). The T- Cells will be biologically altered and engineered to perform a specific function unlike current T- Cells who don't have a specific antagonist to fight against (Hagelin 2001). If research is funded well enough so that it can continue, society will see an incurable disease such as cancer disappear like a rabbit in a hat. Other diseases that are known to be passed on genetically can also be cured using gene therapy.
A gene therapist could go into the embryo and find the mutated gene that causes heart disease or high cholesterol and replace or extract the defective gene. This conception of prenatal gene therapy is derived from the idea that a doctor would be able to "test" an unborn baby for defections. Many people argue that the prenatal testing can be harmful due to social and medical implications (Wekesser 1996). These implications include malpractice and increased stress on the mother of the baby. Clearly, much controversy exists over prenatal gene therapy.
Something that Uncle Sam has strongly prevented is the construction of genetically produced human organs. Naturally, these organs would be intended for a transplant involving the person who had the organ produced (Hagelin 2001). For example: Bob needs a liver within the next six months but cannot find a match. The answer is within Bob's own body. A genetic therapist would be able to extract a liver cell, clone it, grow a liver for Bob, and then transplant the organ into Bob. Medically, there are many barriers to break, but agriculturally there are few.
Many of the foods we eat today are biologically produced. Apples and oranges are biotechnologically altered so that they are bigger and better. Bio technicians are also producing microorganisms that prey on crop ruining bacteria and the like (Woods 2000). There have even been experiments with farm animals that result in bountiful production of pork, beef and poultry therefore boosting the economy as a result of more agricultural profits (Wekesser 1996).
In 1987 a gene therapist began altering the hormones of pigs. The geneticist implanted a human growth hormone into the pig, which in turn increased the amount of lean pork, the weight of the pig, and unfortunately the size of the pig's heart. Although the pigs had giant enlarged hearts, the breeding of the pigs continues (Wekesser 1996). This is not to say that the agricultural industry is booming with the recent production of "super livestock and crops." Inversely, many people disagree with either some forms of gene therapy or all of gene therapy. Gene therapy is very risky and may cause more harm than good. Take the development of nuclear warfare for example.
This resulted in a thirty year long cold war between the U. S. and the USSR. In this situation there was obviously more bad done than there was good.
Genetic engineering can end up the same way; there may not be a war but there will be more harm than help. That being said, gene therapy is morally wrong (Skaggs 2001). Not only is genetic engineering morally wrong with humans it is wrong in the agricultural field too. What were to happen if a biologically produced organism designed to increase crop production were to overtake an entire ecosystem? (Woods 2000). The organism could spread into natural habitats killing the "crop frying" organism that was food for an earthworm which was food for a bird which was food for a snake etc... This may be only minor in comparison to what can happen to a genetically altered animal that has gone wrong.
As stated above, in 1987, a doctor altered pigs' growth hormones resulting in arthritis, gastric ulcers, enlarged hearts, dermatitis, and kidney problems (Wekesser 1996). Or even worse, what would happen if genetically altered food wreaked havoc on the human body? In 1994 this did happen. Beef which was shipped from South America to Europe was contaminated with a hormone that became lethal a result of altering the cattle from which it (the beef) came (Skaggs 2001). This shows a direct, palpable consequence to humans and genetic engineering. What's the current U. S.
policy according to genetic engineering? In the field of agriculture and foods more generally the FDA (see appendix II) makes the call. Currently, the FDA has no written policy about the production of genetically enhanced foods. The FDA does, however, maintain its policy of keeping the public safe. As with every food, the FDA tests the altered food to make sure that it is safe (Woods 2000).
In other words, biotechnologically produced food goes under the same discrimination as all of society's other foods (Woods 2000). Whether this is comforting or discomforting is up to the eater. Although there are some labels on foods that are genetically produced, this is not required. More importantly, the former president Bill Clinton put a ban on cloning in 1997 for a total of five years. Whether or not there is legislation condoning genetic engineering or prohibiting it, there will be controversy. This controversy will exist for as long as human beings walk the Earth we live on.
Whether the controversy is over something petty or something as serious as cloning human beings, the arguers will argue on and on, endlessly. Reference Page Wekesser, Carol. Genetic Engineering. San Diego, CA: Geen haven Press, Inc. , 1996. Hagelin, John.
"Genetic Engineering of Humans" Genetic Engineering: A Precautionary Approach. January 2001. (October 3, 2001) Woods, Chris. "Food and Genetics" Genes Are Our Life. October 1999. (October 3, 2001) Skaggs, Betty.
Telephone Interview. 8 October 2001.