3rd Quarter Seminar
25 March 2004
What are the limits of Genetic Engineering?
What is genetic engineering? Genetic engineering is the alteration of
an organism’s DNA, or genetic, material to eliminate undesirable
characteristics or to produce desirable new ones. The most controversial
form of genetic engineering, by far, is cloning. Cloning is another
technology that has evolved out of genetic research. While genetic
engineering usually adds or removes just one or two genes, cloning involves
reproducing all of an organism’s genes (Tagliaferro 21). A clone is an
exact genetic replica of an organism, having the same exact DNA makeup.
Understanding what genetic engineering and cloning are is important
knowledge, but the most important questions are what the ethical, moral,
legal, and biological issues are that deal with genetic engineering and
cloning. I will discuss my person opinions about all of the issues of
genetic engineering. You cannot forget that this is person opinion and not
fact, as the majority of cloning is illegal, and most of these fields of
exploration are, well, unexplored.
I do believe that genetic engineering should be allowed, to a certain
extent. I also believe that cloning should be legal, to a certain extent.
However, you cannot please everyone and though some of these things may be
legal, to others they might not be moral.
Currently, the trend is to genetically engineer plants for resistance
to disease and increased food production; animals for new, advanced, and
revolutionary medicines. This should be allowed; however there is always
the possibility that the balance of nature could be changed by genetically
enhanced plants. Insects will not be a problem for crops anymore; plants
with altered genes have already been tested indestructible where normal
crops have been eaten away. Harvesting medicine from animals, such as
hemoglobin from pigs, will eventually become unnecessary since we will be
able to alter our own genes. Human genetic engineering could very well be
the cure for the most widespread and devastating diseases in the world:
cancer, HIV, AIDS, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s
disease, you get the idea. If you already have the disease, you can alter
the genes necessary to stop the disease. The best thing possible would be,
if there were a family history of a certain disease, to alter the gene
before the onset of the disease. This form of genetic engineering should
definitely be allowed. Human genetic engineering could also enhance or
improve “good” traits – for instance an extra copy of the human-growth-
hormone gene could be added to increase height (Wekesser 155). I don’t
think that a growth hormone should be allowed, unless someone is a
naturally born a dwarf, since there have been reports of nasty side effects
from those who have unnecessarily take the hormone. The long-term effects
of gene splicing are still unknown. It is a dangerous process, and horrific
accidents could occur. For those who would like to pick and choose their
children’s genetic makeup (facial features, build, etc.), there could be
mutations (cue images of radioactive ants) of any kind. I do not believe
that “made-to-order humans” should be allowed, for then there would be less
and less cultural diversity, and people would become more susceptible to
certain strains of disease, which, to an extreme extent, could be like
giving out nuclear weapons. The good points of heredity would be erased,
since we would turn into superhuman genetically enhanced cyborgs. No matter
what anyone says, altering human evolution is not a good idea (unless to
eliminate certain hereditary diseases). Strength enhancement for sports and
the like should not be allowed, since they share the same dangers as
steroids. I do not believe that we should genetically enhance our
intelligence, either, but research and exploration of the unused part of
our brain (around 90%) would be allowed, also with anything else to forward
the knowledge of our surroundings and ourselves. I have created 10 rules
and regulations regarding the laws surrounding genetic engineering. This
essay is my formal opinion on all issues, moral and lawful, surrounding
10 Rules and Regulations Regarding Genetic Engineering
. Cloning may be used only if it is absolutely necessary.
. The family may make the decisions for the patients.
. The doctor or geneticist must have a special license for cloning.
. The cloning of complete human beings is illegal.
. The unnecessary cloning of animals, especially pets, is illegal.
. The cloning of plants and animals for medical research and approved
medicines is legal.
. If the life of a person depends on genetic engineering or cloning,
anything necessary is legal.
. If money is an issue for genetic engineering, it shall be paid by the
patient in increments or paid by the government in full.
. The cloning of livestock is illegal, to prevent certain strains of
diseases from decimating animals.
. You cannot clone more than one organ from the same person.
Tagliaferro, Linda. Genetic Engineering: Progress or Peril?. New York:
Lerner Publications Company, 1997.
Wekesser, Carol, ed. Genetic Engineering. San Diego: Greenhaven Press,
Judson, Karen. Genetic Engineering: Debating the Benefits and Concerns.
Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, Inc., 2001