Genetic Engineering Ethics Essay Sample
In the mid-1970s, the whole world was astonished by the new assertion that scientists had discovered a new way to move genetic materials from one species the other which enabled them to improves or come up with new species. According to scientists, this method presented a new way to improve animal and plant species. Apart from this, the new technology or genetic engineering was an ultimate answer to a number of diseases and would also lead to increased food supplies, help in development of inexpensive medicines, and possibly provide cure for some untreatable diseases. On the other hand, opponents argue that this was a recipe for unstoppable plagues and other environmental disasters. Like any scientific process, there are important ethics which must govern its operations. Supporters and opponents of genetic engineering had sharp divisions regarding the basic ethics and morality of the new technology same as they were regarding the practical implications of the technology.
This paper will discuss ethical issues in genetic engineering. The paper will review different ethical aspects of genetic engineering technology and the possible implications of the process.
Ethics in genetic engineering
Technology is one of the changing faces of the world. While it has brought reprieve in different spheres of life, it has negative effects on the course of our life as well. Technology is a double-edged sword and therefore it need to be handled well and with a lot of responsibility (Rollin, 1995). Genetic engineering is nothing more than a mere technology which is used to transfer genetic materials in order to replicate the original genetic materials contained in a living organism which can either be an animal, plant or human beings. It basically involves the process of recombinant DNA in which DNA molecules are cut and spliced together with fragments from a similar or dissimilar organism.
There are different ethical perspectives that have been argued for and against genetic engineering. The fact that genetic engineering has been gaining acceptance in the world does not mean that there are no ethical issues to be considered. There are still ethical concerns regarding the modification of genes since this process leads to existence of living things that were never present before and a the same time it can lead to extinction of other living species (Saunders and Ho, 2009). Secondly, there is great concern on the psychological effect of the process since it tends to create a perception that human beings are merely manufactured commodities which can be changed or discarded at human will. This means that we are losing the morality of life.
At the same time opposers of this stand argue that genetic engineering is a product of human brain. This means that it is a form of science or technology which enhances our quality of life. The main purpose of human life is to improve their life through exploitation of the environment. Therefore genetic engineering is one of the process that promise to improve human life, which include increasing food production and coming with new medicine to fight diseases (Glenn, 2009). To their view, genetic engineering has more benefits to human life than the mere ethical considerations.
There are to key areas which have elicited a lot of controversy in genetic engineering. One of the most controversial aspects of genetic engineering is biotechnology which is basically involved in production of genetically modified organisms or crops. Famously regarded as GM technology, there are different areas in the world that have refused food donation from the developed countries on the ground that they have been produced using the genetic modification technology (Glenn, 2009). Foods produced through GM technology have been regarded as “Frankenfoods”, especially in Europe where the technology has been vehemently rejected.
Opponent to this technology argue that production of crops through GM technology is unethical. Crops which produced through this technology are usually provided with bacterial genes, which in essence is more likely to lead to death of some harmless insect like monarch butterflies. It has also been argued that genetic engineering can also elicit allergic reactions which may harm human health (enotes, 2009).
Another ethical face of GM technology is that there are some companies like Monsanto and Novartis which have patents rights to this technology. In most cases, these companies encourage poor farmers especially in developing world to adopt the technology. Furthermore they encourage them to buy new seeds every year instead of their traditional practice where they reused their own seeds. This is likely to lead to extinction of traditional food species. This is meant to increase the profitability of the multinationals and at the same time it will not solve the food crisis problem in these countries. For example the “golden rice” which is said to have increased Vitamin A has not provided a solution to problem of blindness while it is said to lead to loss of some indigenous rice species. (Glenn, 2009)
This means that although genetic engineering is likely to lead increased production of food, there is also a likelihood of causing harm to the environment. Therefore GM technology should be banned or at least any food that is produced using this technology need to be labeled so that they can be easily identified (Buzzle.com, 2009).
The other controversial area of genetic engineering which is bitterly argued than GM technology is alternation of human genes or famously regarded as designer babies. The ethical debate surrounding alteration of human genes is just an extension of the age debates on abortion and other reproduction technologies like test tube babies. However, not all areas of human genetic engineering are controversial For example the somatic cell alteration which has been successfully used to treat human disease is acceptable. This is because this technology can cure diseases while theses changes in somatic cells are not passed to the offspring (Glenn, 2009). This technology is useful since it can treat life threatening and previously incurable diseases.
However gene therapy is refuted no different grounds. First it is refuted on the ground that it encourages eugenics. This was a pseudoscience which as population in 19th and 20th century which postulated that only those with desirable characteristics or the dominant groups in the society which should be allowed to reproduce (Glenn, 2003). This policy has grave consequences. For example in 1930s and 1940s, those seemed not fit like disabled, mentally ill, and other were not only sterilized but they were killed. The debate becomes more controversial when it comes to alteration of germline which may have grave consequences on the future generations (Annas et al., 2002). On the last ground human cloning is also ethical refuted since it would lead to confusion in family relationship and continuity of generation when adults are allowed to clown themselves.
Since 1970s, genetic engineering has become important face of the changing technology in the world. While genetic engineering can lead to increase in food production and cure for a range of diseases, there are some ethical issues pertaining to this technology. Production of genetically modified foods can lead to extinction of some non harm species and natural plant species. This would also enrich multinationals without solving food crisis especially in developing countries. On the other hand, while gene therapy can lead to cure of some incurable diseases, it can encourage eugenics leading to elimination of some individuals in the society and human cloning is likely to lead to family relationships confusion.
Annas, G., Andrews, L. & Isasi, R. (2002). Protecting the Endangered Human: toward an international treaty prohibiting cloning and inheritable alterations. American Journal of Law and Medicine 28: 151-178.
Buzzle.com, (2009). Genetic engineering ethics. Retrieved 5th February 2009 from http://www.buzzle.com/articles/genetic-engineering-ethics.html
enotes, (2009). Ethics in genetic engineering. Retrieved 5th February 2009 from http://www.enotes.com/ethics-genetic-article
Glenn, L. M. (2003). Crossing Species Boundaries: target article and open peer commentaries. American Journal of Bioethics 3: 27-28.
Glenn, M. L. (2009). Ethical issue in genetic engineering and transgenic. Retrieved 5th February 2009 from http://www.actionbioscience.org/biotech/glenn.html
Rollin, B. (1995). The Frankenstein Syndrome: ethical and social issues in the genetic engineering of animals. Cambridge (U.K.): Cambridge University Press.
Saunders, P. & Ho, M. (2009). GeoEngineering a measure of desperation. Retrieved 5th February 2009 from http://www.i-sis.org.uk/GeoEngineeringAMD.php