Genetic Engineering: Is it the Future?
By: Saaim Malik
Genetic engineering is the process to alter the structure and nature of genes in human beings, animals or foods using techniques like molecular cloning and transformation. In other words, it is the process of adding or modifying DNA in an organism to bring about a great deal of transformation.
Scientists have proposed the many potential benefits. Many have argued against its use due to interfering with nature and trying to play God. Changing our hair colour, height or even our intelligence.
Although the pros of genetic engineering may not be clear at first, there are a number of benefits that we can only get if the scientists further the study of genetic engineering and help the human race to advance.
Genetic engineering seems to be both a blessing and a curse, and humans stand to both benefit and lose out from the advancement of genetic engineering.
Pros of Genetic Engineering
By using gene therapy, we can reduce or even cure genetic diseases. The gene mutations that cause these destructive diseases can be removed and diseases like cystic fibrosis can be completely cured. AIDS can also be prevented for example the first HIV/AIDS resistant baby was born in China in November 2018.
We can detect diseases in the womb for unborn children. This has led many to opt for abortion. However, with genetic engineering we no longer have to worry, We can prevent diseases in unborn children by using genetic engineering.
All children would be able to be born healthy and strong, with no diseases or illnesses present at birth. Genetic engineering can also be used to help people who risk passing on terribly degenerative diseases to their children.
There is also a real possibility to slow down aging and this could help humans live longer and with better quality of life due to younger bodies. We can also use it to adapt to the varying upcoming conditions in the near future like global warming. People living in hotter and colder climates can also use gene therapy to better adapt. Evolution takes thousands of years and genetic engineering can help us adapt quicker and more efficiently.
Gene therapy is already widely used in crops and it has helped grow the food output of the globe substantially. Without it, many parts of the world would go hungry. It is vital that we continue to research more resistant types of crops with higher outputs to keep up with the growing demand. Livestock can be modified to produce more milk and meat and trees can be modified to absorb more CO2 to reduce the affects of global warming. We can produce new types of foods with better nutritional value with added vitamins to improve nutrition intake.
Cons of Genetic Engineering
The first and most obvious argument is that is it the right thing to do? Who are we to interfere with God’s creation? On a more ethical level there are reasons that diseases exist and if we were to prevent them it could cause rampant overpopulation. Living longer is already causing social problems between generations and by further extending the average lifespan these problems will only rise.
Scientists know only a limited amount about the human body and how could they know the long term effects of the changes they are making especially for babies born using gene therapy. The long term effects could take years to notice. What if we manage to wipe out one disease just to introduce a new more dangerous one. Also, with the success rate of genetic engineering there is much left to be desired, with a very high chance of complications.
Pathogens can easily adapt and become stronger which may result in more harm than good by affecting non GM crops in agriculture; and spread more disease in humans who are not genetically modified.
There could be many major side effects of genetic engineering. For instance, a plant can be modified so that it needs less water, but that would make it intolerant to direct sunlight. Life is incredibly complex and many scientists believe that genetically modified genes may have an irreversible effect with consequences not yet known.
As modified specie would have advantages in intelligence and strength it could cause a decrease in number of unmodified humans and cause a negative effect on genetic diversity. The very real possibility of ‘designer babies’ seems plausible with a specific skin tone, hair colour and eye colour. Also, in many developing nations it would be preferred to have a boy which could cause a gender imbalance and could be detrimental for the future of our species.
To conclude, there are many benefits and many dangers for a society in the future where genetic engineering would become the norm. The best case would be for genetic engineering to be used in limited cases and mainly to prevent diseases. However, the people in power have the ultimate authority and have the key to a very dangerous weapon like this. Making yourself aware of all aspects of genetic engineering can help you to form your own opinion and help get your voice heard.