The Pros and Cons of Genetic Engineering

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Genetic engineering is a process in which scientists transfer genes from one species to another totally unrelated species. Usually this is done in order to get one organism to produce proteins, which it would not naturally produce. The genes taken from one species, which code for a particular protein, are put into cells of another species, using a vector. This can result in the cells producing the desired protein. It is used for producing proteins which can be used by humans, such as insulin for diabetics and is also used to make organisms better at surviving, for example genetically modifying a plant so that it can survive in acidic soil. There is debate about whether genetic engineering should be used or not, and to what degree. There are many problems that can occur from the process and many of these cannot be avoided currently. There are known problems and there is also the fact that the whole process is unpredictable and unforeseen problems could crop up. A good example of this was the influence of a genetically engineered organism on a food chain, which sometimes damaged the local ecology. The new organism could now compete successfully against other species, causing unforeseen changes in the environment. This could then have a knock-on effect that could lead to the destruction of whole species. Due to the quite random nature of genetic engineering, there is a risk that it may disrupt the functioning of other genes in an organism. This could mean that the organisms do not survive at all, or become some sort of mutated freak, which is completely different and maybe even more dangerous. Genetic engineers also intend to profit by patenting genetically engineered seeds. This means that, when a farmer plants these genetically engineered seeds, all the seeds have an identical genetic structure. As a result, if a fungus, a virus, or a pest develops which can attack this particular crop, they might all be at risk, resulting in widespread crop failure. Insects, birds, and the wind can carry genetically altered seeds, which can cross-pollinate with genetically natural crops and wild relatives. All crops, organic and non-organic, are vulnerable to contamination from cross-pollinatation, meaning that problems in the original genetically modified organisms can be spread a... ... middle of paper ... ...age because it means that insulin, which keeps diabetics alive, can be produced quickly and cheaply. Genetic Engineering could also increase genetic diversity, and produce more variants of the same species that could also be crossed over and implanted into other species. Animals and plants can be 'tailor made' to show desirable characteristics. Genes could also be manipulated in trees for example, to absorb more CO2 and reduce the threat of global warming. This would actually help the environment. However many of these things have not been tested and are much more difficult in practice than in theory. That added to the massive uncertainty about the effects and results of genetic engineering would suggest that the benefits do not outweigh the risks taken to obtain them. A religious question also arises. By changing the cells of living organisms are we ‘playing God’ and if we are should we be allowed to? In conclusion I would say that genetic engineering is certainly a good thing saving lives in many cases. However more tests need to be carried out, and profit-hungry companies should not be allowed to do whatever they want in their quests for profit.
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