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Genetic Engineering Essay, Research Paper

Genetic Engineering: Improve the quality of life

Who would have thought that Dolly the sheep would cause a scientific war ? Genetic Engineering is the alteration of an organism s genetic, or hereditary, material to eliminate undesirable characteristics or to produce desirable new ones (Levine1). Two of a kind in a card game is great, how about in society.

Genetic Engineering is beneficial and can significantly improve the quality of life.

The first genetic engineering technique, still used today, was selective breeding. In selective breeding, only those plants or animals with desirable characteristics are chosen for further breeding (1). Over the last thirty years molecular biologists have made great strides in understanding inheritance.

Beginning with James Watson and Francis Crick s description of the structure of DNA, scientists now understand how genetic information is stored in the cell and how that information is duplicated. Building on this knowledge, more recent discoveries have enabled scientists to move pieces of genetic information from one organism to another. Many people believe that discoveries in molecular biology and genetic engineering can significantly improve the quality of our lives, but they also believe that intelligent use of this new knowledge depends on society s understanding of its potential and its limitations. (Beneficial18)

Improving health of human beings would be a tremendous advantage of genetic engineering by, bettering vaccines for the prevention of diseases like small pox, polio and antibiotics to cure life-threatening illnesses like pneumonia are significant milestones in man s ability to better human health and the quality of life. More recent discoveries in human genetics, coupled with recombinant DNA techniques, may provide new ways to identify, cure and prevent diseases (Beneficial23). Microinjection is just one of many mind-boggling techniques available to biologists exploring the fantastically complex rules by which genes orchestrate life. While developed in university laboratories to further basic research, the tools of genetic engineering are increasingly being applied toward practical ends that promise longer and healthier lives through increased food production and dramatic new ways of treating (perhaps even curing) afflictions such as cancer and birth defects.(Merritt80) Genetic engineering can be a huge advantage within the near future.

Every new technological revolution brings with it both benefits and costs. The more powerful the technology is at expropriating and controlling the forces of nature, the more exacting the price we are forced to pay in terms of disruption and destruction wreaked on the ecosystem (Russell27). Is it worth spending an immense amount of money on this new technology? Of course there will be people who oppose it but, on the other hand it could be useful to society. Genetic engineering represents the ultimate tool. It extends humanity s reach over forces of nature as no other technology in history, perhaps with one exception of the nuclear bomb. Genetic engineering the ultimate tool, again proving the colossal advantage this can have on society. With genetic technology we assume control over the hereditary blueprints of life itself. Can any reasonable person believe for a moment that such unprecedented power is without risk (27)?

As always, when a new technology like genetic engineering is introduced to society the question concerning environmental safety comes about. As biotechnological research has progressed and techniques have been developed and refined, the initial concerns over the possible hazards implicit in this new field of industry have largely been put to rest. There has never been a biotechnology-related incident resulting in danger to humans, animals or the environment (Environmentally36). Nonetheless, the corporate community and government regulatory agencies alike recognize the need to set prudent standards for biotechnology research, and to periodically revise the standards as the industry matures.

What do you think about redesigning humans?

In one of the most widespread modern hero-myths, an Everyman figure called Clark Kent harbours within an innocent disguise his true identity: Superman, the man of steel! The notion that a meek victim of circumstance can be transformed into an omnicompetent demigod is an appealing one; but designing new human species cannot give us the power of instant selftransformation, nor will it enable us to produce people invulnerable to injury, capable of levitation or possessing X-ray vision. Nevertheless, many improvements to our capabilities will be within the compass of the genetic engineers of the future, affecting not only the structure of our bodies, but also their metabolism and power of perception. The desires to improve on nature will probably be one of the first motives to encourage them to design the seed of a new kind of man. (Stableford66)

As well as modifying the body s structural properties, it would also be convenient to pay serious attention to its metabolism. An engaging notion would be to increase the range of substances that the body can utilize as food. (Stableford68)

One point that immediately calls itself to mind is that humans are not good at seeing in the dark. There are many animals, which are better at making use of low levels of light than we are cats, for example. It would be very useful to enhance the ability of humans to see by night, provided that any modifications made to the eyes for that purpose are not prejudicial to the ability to see by day. (Stableford70) What a grand idea of night-vision for mankind. What does that mean? It means that mankind would be able to work outside day and night.

The eyes are not the only sense organs which can be recruited to solve problems of getting around in the dark. Bats find their way around not by using their eyes, but by using their ears, and some marine mammals which have to cope with the murky ocean depths use a similar system of echo-location. Sonar and radar are technological versions of this method of sensing which we have found extremely useful in extending our powers of perception artificially. It might conceivably be possible to equip redesigned human beings with some kind of system akin to that used by bats. This would involve whole new anatomical structures being added to the head, and it would mean also that people so equipped would have to learn to make use of a new kind of incoming information. (Stableford71)

Mapping the genetic makeup of humans is an enormous opportunity. The proposal to map in extensive detail and then sequence the human genetic material (DNA) excites me enormously. It represents an opportunity to establish definitively the genetic program which makes possible our development into human beings as well as our successful functioning as adults. Knowledge of the human genetic program will have profound consequences both for our ability to understand our existence as healthy men and women, as well as for how imperfections in our genetic messages lead to genetic diseases. (Jaroff96) Until recently, the thought that we might soon know all of the precise details of our genetic instructions had to seem an impossible dream that only much later generations would ever be able to realize. The extraordinary possibilities allowed by the procedures of recombinant DNA, however, have turned these fantasies into potential reality.(96)

Genetic engineering is beneficial and can significantly improve the quality of life in many ways such as: health, redesigning mankind and inherited diseases. Therefore society should keep an open mind on this issue.

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