Genetics is the study of genes and what they do. Genetic engineering provides ways of altering these genes to make them function differently in some way. There are those who believe that genetic engineering is morally and ethically wrong, others believe that it can be used as a great tool for the benefit of mankind. Genetic engineering is already being used in providing treatments for certain types of illnesses. The food industry is also utilizing genetic engineering in the production of food, making more nutritious foods that are resistant to herbicides. Other industries like mining and waste management use genetically engineered bacteria.
Therefore, genetic engineering should not be banned because it has many practical uses in medicine, food production, and industry. Genetic engineering was first experimented with in the early 1970's. The first to do experiments of this sort was scientist Paul berg. Berg found that by chemical means he could take a gene from a monkey virus that has the ability to cause cancer in mice and insert it into an entirely different strand of DNA (Yount 6).
Later, there were other scientists who found means of doing this on a mass scale. With experimenting in genetic engineering, it came to be known that any kind of DNA could be inserted into any other kind of DNA, even plant DNA with animal DNA. From these experiments is where today's genetic engineering evolved. The main reason not to ban genetic engineering is because of the possible advancements that can be made in the field of medicine. Genetic engineering has already been used to treat and prevent certain illnesses, and many more many have the potential to be cured in the future. Genetic engineering has the possibility to eliminating most all human diseases that have genetic origin, like cancer and AIDS.
And many others that don't have genetic roots may be cured in the future. If genetic engineering were to be banned, then it would be closing the door to so many advances that can be made in medicine to save people's lives. Right now there are several diseases being targeted by genetic engineering to hopefully one day find a potential cure for them. One example would be the genetic disorder PKU. The disease PKU is one that many people are afflicted with. With PKU, there is a lack of a certain chemical that aids in the breaking down of the amino acid phenylalanine.
Without this chemical, phenylalanine can begin to build up in the body. As of now, there is no know cure for the disease, and over time it can lead to mental retardation. People can however live with PKU if it is detected early in life. There are special diets that can be used that are low in phenylalanine.
This will allow people to live a normal life, but a much easier solution may be available with genetic engineering. Scientists are now looking at genetic engineering as a treatment for PKU. By using genetic engineering to switch out the defective genes in the cells that should produce the proper chemicals, with genes that function normally, relief may finally be possible for those coping with the illness (Corrick 44). Therapy, such as this, can be dangerous if not first properly tested.
But, with the implication of certain regulations and guidelines, genetic engineering does not have to put the public health at risk. Another disease hoping to be cured by genetic engineering is cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that causes thick mucus to obstruct breathing passages in the lungs as well as the digestive track. The disease causes difficulties with breathing as well as repeated infections of the lungs. Many people afflicted with the disease often die during the early years of adulthood (On health 1). By using techniques in genetic engineering, physicians administer inhaled particles to patients with cystic fibrosis, that carry the corrected gene that is not present causing the disease.
The gene then implants itself into the cells of the lungs that produce the excess mucus. This technique has allowed for some relief for patients who are suffering from the disease. With more time and research, new methods can be developed that might be even more effective and lead to a life long cure of the disease. The field of medicine has many other uses for genetic engineering. T-PA is an expensive substance that is used to aid with heart attack victims. Since it is so expensive and hard to produce, the amounts of it are scarce.
New methods in genetic engineering allow for it to be produced in large amounts at only a fraction of the cost. These methods have allowed for T-PA to be more readily available when it is needed. Vaccines are also being produced by genetic engineering that purer and more effective. Scientists are also working on developing edible vaccines. Certain genes will be spliced into the cells of plants to allow them to function as vaccines. These vaccines could be introduced into countries that have low economies.
They could be used to cheaply vaccinate large numbers of people. Other substances such as insulin could be genetically engineered. The gene that produces insulin in humans can be spliced into the DNA of a goat or a pig to produce the insulin necessary to treat diabetic patients. Insulin such as this would be better because there would be less chance of allergic reactions than there are with synthetic insulin. The banning of genetic engineering would also end the studies being done with the use of genetic engineering in food production.
Already, many advances have been made with genetic engineering concerning food production. For a while, selective breeding has been used to breed in desired traits into plants and animals. But with selective breeding, the traits that may have taken several seasons of breeding before they would take hold. Genetic engineering has presented an alternative to selective breeding.
Genetic engineering, as opposed to selective breeding, is more convenient because instead of several seasons for traits to take effect, they can take effect in as little as one season. When using selective breeding, only traits from the same species could be bred. With genetic engineering, traits from any species could be interchanged with one another. Not only that, but the DNA of plants and animals can be spliced together to get the traits that are desired. Genetic engineering is being used now to increase the yields of crops. Also, plants are being engineered to have more protein and more nutritional value.
More plants are being produced that will last longer without spoiling, and are better tasting (Cobb 8). Plants are being genetically engineered to be resistant to disease and freezing, and to grow much faster. Animals, such as cows, can be made to gain weight faster and to grow larger (Cobb 11). Most all of the foods that have been genetically engineered have been approved and labeled as safe for human consumption.
Another development from genetic engineering is the ability for plants to produce their own pesticide. A certain gene has been spliced into the DNA of a potato allowing the potato to produce a chemical that would act as a bio pesticide (Tagliaferro 28). If techniques such as this could be perfected, then it would greatly reduce the need for chemical pesticides to be used. Other plants are being engineered to be resistant to herbicides. This would allow for less herbicides to be used to avoid harming the environment.
Other techniques are used to produce cooking oils with less fat. Others are allowing coffee beans to bean grown without caffeine to eliminate the need to decaffeinate them. Also, plants can be produced to recycle nitrogen to produce their own fertilizers (Swisher 18). Cheeses are also being made through genetic engineering.
An enzyme known as rennin is necessary for the production of cheese. Rennin is also very hard and expensive to obtain because it had to be extracted from the stomachs of cows. Scientist spliced a gene from a cow that would produce rennin, into bacteria. The bacteria would produce the rennin and it was exactly the same. This has way lead to a quick and cheap way to produce rennin (Cobb 14). Other industry also has applications for genetic engineering.
Microorganisms have already been produced through genetic engineering that have an appetite for oil. These organisms have been use to remove oil from the oceans after major oil spills. This technique is easier and cheaper to use than traditional techniques. Other organisms have been engineered that have appetites for metals.
These organisms would be especially helpful in the mining industry to remove metals from rocks (Swisher 82). Other organisms could be produced that would consume waste materials and produce energy. The organisms would consume the garbage and produce a gas from it. This gas can then be burned to produce energy. If properly perfected, this technique would be especially helpful due to the oils wells that are rapidly being drained.
This technique would enable people to produce energy while keeping our waste under control (Swisher 82). The writer has shown that genetic engineering should not be banned for its applications in medicine, food production, and industry. If genetic engineering were to be banned, the doors for breakthroughs in medicine would be closed. There are so many diseases that have the potential to be cured.
Many vaccines could be developed so that many diseases would never be contracted. Later research could lead to the discovery of a cure for cancer. People would no longer have to fear dying of cancer, as so many do today. Other diseases such as diabetes, that may have genetic roots, may one day be cured through means of genetic engineering.
Other breakthroughs have been made with genetic engineering, and many more can potentially be made. The food industry has utilized this tool extensively to produce more nutritional, longer lasting foods. Industry as well is using genetic engineering to develop alternate energy sources. Genetic engineering is a very helpful branch of science that can be used for the benefit of mankind. There are, as there is with most everything, certain risks involved when using genetic engineering. But it is believed by the writer that certain standards can be set up to monitor genetic engineering.
Regulations can be set to ensure the public's safety in the matter of genetic engineering. Genetic engineering should not be banned because it does not have to be a safety issue if used properly. So much is yet to be discovered that could potential eliminate most all life threatening illnesses. The writer believes that genetic engineering is a very valuable tool, and therefore, should not be banned.
Cobb, Allan B. Scientifically Engineered Foods. New York, New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, INC. , 2000. Corrick, James A.
Recent Revolutions In Biology. New York, New York: Franklin Watts, 1987. Fine mist could enhance gene therapy for cystic fibrosis. [Online] Available web > Item, 105547. asp Swisher, Clarice. Genetic Engineering.
San Diego, California: Lucent Books, INC. , 1996. Tagliaferro, Linda. Genetic Engineering Progress or Peril. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Lerner Publications Company, 1997. Yount, Lisa.
Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering. New York, New York: Facts On File, INC. , 2000.