Human Genetic Engineering: Unnatural Selection
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Technology has a significant influence across the world, as it has become a fast growing field. Modern biotechnology has been in the major forefront of this influence. From the discovery of DNA to the cloning of various animals, the study of genetic engineering has changed the way society views life. However, does genetic engineering have the capacity to influence the world to its best abilities? Products, which are genetically engineered, may cause severe negative effects on our society. This industry, carrying the potential of leading us toward the unnatural selection of humans to possibly environmental disasters will put humankind in peril. Society, along with humankind, will be in jeopardy since to genetic engineering has the potential of being disastrous.
Genetic Engineering is the deliberate alteration of an organism's genetic information (Lee 1). The outcome scientists refer to as successful entitles the living thing’s ability to produce new substances or perform new functions (Lee 1). In the early 1970’s, direct manipulation of the genetic material deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) became possible and led to the rapid advancement of modern biotechnology (Lee 1).
The dangers of human cloning
Cloning is a process by which genetically equal organisms are created with the same DNA. In simplest terms, clones are like twins born at different times. This procedure poses various dangers to society and humankind. One of the greatest threats this procedure creates is among
been made possible but yet a majority of them have died in early stages of development or after birth according to the study of the cloned sheep, Dolly (Magalhães 1). Those who make it suffer from several defects acquired from birth (Magalhães 1). During recent experimentation it took scientist Ian Wilmut of the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland, and his colleagues who created Dolly (a cloned sheep) 277 tries before they got a healthy, feasible lamb (Human Cloning 1). Due to the complication of human cloning even more deaths and deadly birth defects can be expected (Human Cloning 1). Even though human cloning has never been performed, one likely possibility is that babies born through this process will as well feature lethal birth defects (Magalhães 1).
Genetic engineering has also opened the doors for humans to choose the different various traits they wish their offspring to feature by unnaturally selecting them. The unnatural selection of humans may have begun as a result of a new type of discrimination due to genetic screening (Cummins 4).
As of today, people are constantly being denied of health insurance because of so-called “faulty” genes, which makes them liable to genetic disorders according to Ronnie Cummins, Director of the Campaign for Food Safety/Organic Consumers Association (Cummins 4). Genetic engineering is already being used to “improve” the human race through a practice called eugenics and with the application of genetic screening, it has made it easier to identify and abort fetuses that carry genes for certain disorders (Cummins 4). The practice to “improve” a race was the foundation of Adolf Hitler’s and the Nazis’ genocide of the Jews during the Holocaust. The idea of human cloning was originally designed to assist and benefit humankind not to
rid society of non-life-threatening illnesses, such as the “gay gene” or purely for cosmetic reasons, to “improve” the human race.
Gene therapy and its danger
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines gene therapy as the insertion of normal or genetically altered genes into cells usually to replace defective genes especially in the treatment of genetic disorders. Gene therapy may cause devastating effects to the human gene pool. Recent studies in France have caused federal authorities to suspend three gene therapy experiments due to the latest news of a third child in a French study developed leukemia and that one of the three has died (Maugh II 16). According to Dr. Robertson Parkman of the University of South California, a member of Dr. Donald Kohn of the Keck School of Medicine at USC team which are designated to treat patients with gene therapy said that there are risks associated with most therapies (Maugh II 16). The death of a child in the most recent French study was a tragedy but according to Dr. Parkman, half of those treated with the best available alternatives to gene therapy will either die of their disease or suffer lifelong complications from the therapy (Maugh II 16). Along with the three little boys who developed a leukemia-like disease in a French study an 18-year-old volunteer Jesse Gelsinger, died in 1999 when he experienced a fatal inflammatory reaction to gene therapy which began when his immune system began raging out of control, his blood began clotting, ammonia levels climbed, his liver hemorrhaged and a flood of white blood cells shut down his lungs. (Begley 1).
Gene therapy trials rarely end in tragedy, but most end in failure. In many cases, the inserted gene stops working. In 1993, Ronald Crystal of Cornell University's Weill
Medical College used a cold virus to ferry into patients' lung cells a healthy gene meant to replace the one that causes cystic fibrosis, it was successful until the gene stopped working after a week and the patients' immune systems had noticed the virus and tore apart the cells harboring it and its DNA cargo (Begley 1). Having lives being loss or infected with various diseases after many unsuccessful trials “has led society to believe that there are better places to put our money in,” says biology technology executive John Crowley, chairman and CEO of Amicus Therapeutics in North Brunswick, N.J. (Begley 1).
Potential of environmental disaster
From the ability to create “superhumans” to the never-ending unsuccessful trials of gene therapy there still lies the potential of environmental disaster. The environmental hazards that genetic engineering can create may be devastating to mankind. In a possible scenario, genetically engineered organisms that escape or are released from the laboratory can serve as biological pollutants to the environment (Cummins 1). These biological pollutants can pose great dangers by having the power to be worse than chemical pollutants, since they are forms of life that can reproduce, migrate, and even mutate (Cummins 1). The rapid technical developments have increased the threat of bio-warfare. With a number of countries developing various lethal microbes with no cure, lack of detection, and able to overcome vaccines will eventually lead to the disaster of humankind according to bio-warfare expert Jan Van Aken (Aken 1). Researchers in the U.S, United Kingdom, Russia, Germany, and other countries have now found a way to introduce a lethal gene by engineering it into harmless bacteria (Aken 1). U.S researchers
first did this in 1986, when they used a certain gene that caused the same deadly effects as it did in anthrax (Aken 1). With the recent threat of terrorism, who knows what these terrorists are capable of doing with these latest developments.
Gene therapy’s bright future
Advocates of gene therapy keep insisting that in spite of some setbacks the future is bright in this field. Throughout the many years gene therapy has been around, it has experienced a numerous of unsuccessful trials. One recognized case was the recent study that caused federal authorities to suspend three gene therapy experiments due to a third child in a French study who developed leukemia and that one of the three children died (Maugh II 16). In addition, the death of an 18-year-old volunteer Jesse Gelsinger when he experienced a fatal inflammatory reaction to gene therapy serves as another recognizable case (Begley 1). According to John Crowley, chairman and CEO of Amicus Therapeutics in North Brunswick, N.J says "gene therapy has been 'five years away' for 20 years" (Begley 1). Scientists’ inability to create successful trials will eventually lead society to believe that there are better places to put our money into (Begley 1).
What the future holds for us
With the latest developments in the field of genetic engineering, one can wonder what the future holds for us. “A molecular Auschwitz” is what one biochemist, Erwin Chargoff mentioned in his autobiography, Heraclitean Fire, referring to genetic engineering (Cummins 4). Genetic engineering poses a great threat to the population as a whole with its potential of reaching a catastrophic peak. The United States along with the
rest of the world needs to continue passing regulations against this field of science to be able to create a healthy future for generations to come.
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Lee, Thomas F. “Genetic Engineering.” Grolier Online. 2004. Encyclopedia Americana.
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Magalhães, João Pedro de. "Cloning." Senescence.Info 20 April 1997. 12 Mar 2005
Maugh ll, Thomas H. "The Nation; Gene Therapy Experiments Put on Hold;
Suspension comes as a third child in a French study develops leukemia. Researchers in U.S. believe incidents form an isolated case.; [HOME EDITION]." Los Angeles Times. 4 March 2005. 11 Mar 2005