Controversy Over Genetic Engineering Essay Research Paper

Controversy Over Genetic Engineering Essay, Research Paper

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.

Biotechnicians 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 (Wekesseer 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: Geenhaven Press, Inc.,


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


I. Introduction

A. General information

B. Thesis


Benefits in Cancer

A. T-Cells

B. Gene Therapy

III. Benefits in Prenatal Gene Therapy

IV. Organ Transplants

V. Benefits in Agriculture

A. Plants

B. Livestock

VI. Negatives of Genetic Engineering

A. Nuclear analogy

B. Morals

VII. Negatives of Genetic Engineering in Agriculture

VIII. Current U.S. Policy

A. F.D.A.

B. President Clinton

XI. Conclusion




To Alter or Not to Alter


Your name here





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