Biotechnology has existed for many years, even since the prehistoric times and over the past few years it has benefited us immensely. With biotechnology we are able to create pest-resistant crops, developing new types of plant or animal species and therapeutic drugs for humans. This implies that biotechnology is when a organism is taken and manipulated or alternated. This has lead to the creation of genetic engineering. This is when the organisms genetic material is taken and genetically modified. In the project I will be covering the question” What are the potential Human Health risks of Genetic Engineering” This will entitle the risks from food that has been genetically modified and genetic reconstruction in the human body.
Positives of genetic engineering
The positives and negatives of genetic engineering will also be covered.
To begin with the positives, many people have benefited from the use of genetic engineering. It has been used to treat and sometimes cure diseases. Genetic engineering is most commonly used when there is a genetic fault that could create a risk for the patient. If the genetic engineering cannot fix the problem is can help by alleviating the symptoms of genetic diseases or faults. Not only does it alleviate or cure the problem but it will also lengthen and enhance the life expectancy of that person, if it is done properly. If a patient has genetic engineering done to them such as alleviating symptoms of genetic diseases, they will have to go through gene therapy. Gene therapy is the attempt of transferring normal genes into only the tissue that is most affected by the genetic disease. But there is reason to assume that the difficulties experienced can be overcome in future research.
If the genetic defects are found in the earlier stages of the embryo, it is possible that normal genes that are transferred can be present in all of the tissue. Food wise, genetically engineered food can help and affect us. The benefits of genetically engineered food are; that the food source can create a natural pesticide to get rid of insects rather than using chemical or unnatural methods of pesticides, so there is a lower risk of people contracting illnesses or diseases from the chemicals, the taste and colour of the food can be enhanced, it may have more nutritional value and may have a longer life expectancy.
Negatives of genetic engineering
The potential risk of misuse of genetic engineering is enough reason for closing many doors on genetic engineering as the benefits just aren’t worth the risk.
There is always the harbouring risk of genetic technology potentially changing the human species forever. Lee Silver, a Princeton molecular biologist quoted ” in animals, it only works 50% of the time, even when successful, about 5% of the time, the new gene gets placed in the middle of an existing gene, creating a mutation.” For scientist and potential clients hoping for genetic engineering of their offspring’s, these odds are not acceptable.
Scientists still believe that genetic engineering should only be used when it concerns curing genetic diseases. But even that should still be approached with caution. Other problems that can occur could be the mutation of human or plants as discussed earlier. When it comes to plants, they are easier to genetically engineer as there isn’t a human life at risk, but this should also be approached with caution as the mutation of a plant if allowed to grow in the environment could alternate the eco-system and can become a big problem such as throwing off the balance of the food chain and biodiversity. How this could happen is that the mutated plant could become a pest to other plants or to animals in the eco-system and can alter life in that eco-system.
Other issues that have been brought up in studies is the mutation of viruses and bacteria which if not handle with precautions can harm or affect the human race and earths biodiversity if it happens to accidently be released. So the biggest issues of genetic engineering would be the risk of harming a human subject by creating a mutation and destroying the environment due to experiments and accidently release of the genetically alternated organism.
Ethics of Genetic Engineering
Questions that most people ask are “how far should our ability to interfere with life be allowed?”, “should we really tamper with what God has created?” and “is Genetic Engineering really worth the criticism and risks?”. Many people have a big problem with genetic engineering and many scientist have stick to the rules and ethics of genetic engineering. But the co-discoverer of the DNA code and Noble prize receiver Dr. James D. Watson also disregarded the risks of genetic engineering which did lead to him plunging forward regardless of the consequences. What scientists must realise is that what they create not only will affect them but all of us and the environment.
But we shouldn’t rely on the “high priests of science” to decide what our ethical decisions and opinions are. As discussed earlier, genetic engineering should only be really used for curing or helping genetic diseases, but then there are the people that take genetic engineering to another level where they start to choose the eye colour, skin colour, sex, hair colour and height of their offspring’s even before they are born. Most people in society and especially in the Christian area would find this unethical as these people are trying to alter what God has created and trying to “play God”. Other societies have brought up issues such as;
Are we blurring the lines between species by creating transgenic combinations?
What are the known health risks associated with altered organsims?
What are the long-term effects on the environment when altered organisms are released in the field?
What ethical, social, and legal controls or reviews should be placed on such research?
Are we inflicting pain and suffering on creatures when we create certain types of chimeras?
Will genetic interventions in humans create physical or behavioural traits that may or may not be readily distinguished from what is usually perceived to be “human”?
If the blending of nonhuman animal and human DNA results, intentionally or not, in chimeric entities possessing degrees of intelligence or sentience never before seen in nonhuman animals, should these entities be given rights and special protections?
What unintended personal, social, and cultural consequences could result?
Will these interventions redefine what it means to be “normal”?
Who will have access to these technologies, and how will scarce resources if needed, be allocated?
People have argued the fact that cross breeding is crossing the borders of normal and crossing “God’s laws”. John H Evans wrote a book on genetic engineering and the Christian views on it “Playing God”. In this book he discusses the issues and what other people think of genetic engineering of humans and other living organisms
An author Stephen Quayle also wrote a series of books concerning genetic engineering and the Christian views on them.
Human Rights activist Scott Nothwehr has also helped fight against genetic engineering by creating posters in magazines that with the chosen colours make the viewer uncomfortable with it, and this it would affect the viewers views on genetic engineering.
Conclusion and Opinion
In the end genetic engineering has its positives and flaws, but if one thinks, is it really worth the consequences and effects to have genetic engineering done? Yes it has benefitted us immensely food and health wise, but shouldn’t the line be drawn there? Personally I go against genetic engineering when it comes to altering your baby and animals. I believe that God should be and is the only that can create organisms in the image he wants rather the image we seek and approve of. I believe the only time it should be used is when curing or helping stabilize genetic diseases and serious illnesses.
If God want to create a super-human or a cow that lays eggs then it would have been done. What people must realise is God has given them the knowledge to be able to alter life but it is their responsibility to be wise enough to use that knowledge to a certain extent that does not consist with “trying to play God”. So my personal view is that genetic engineering is good when used wisely but a negative in my eyes when it is used irresponsibly and for uncalled for reasons.
“Results of flaws in this technology cannot be recalled and fixed, but become the negative heritage to countless future generations”