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The Pros and Cons of Genetic Engineering

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The formal definition of genetic engineering given in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “the directed alteration of genetic material by intervention in genetic processes”. Stated in another way, it is a scientific alteration of the structure of genetic material in a living organism. There are many different methods in genetic engineering, but the goal of all the methods is to manipulate the genetic material (DNA) of the cells in a living organism in order to either change it hereditary traits or to produce biological products. Genetic engineering techniques have been experimented with in many different areas including in bacteria, naturally produced drugs, plants, livestock, and laboratory animals. Much of the processes dealing with genetic engineering are still in the experimental stages. As a result of this, it is required that most genetically engineered products get approval from specific U.S. governmental agencies such as the FDA.

Genetic engineering has only become possible and more understandable very recently. Since scientists have been able to map out most of the gene locations in DNA, they have discovered ways to manipulate the genes. It is a very serious and controversial matter because it raises many ethical, legal, and moral issues, especially in dealing with genetic engineering in human beings. There are generally three methods used in the manipulation of human genes and they are cloning, somatic cell manipulation, and human germline manipulation. Very basically, cloning is creating exact copies of an organisms DNA and creating a new organism with this same DNA. The new organisms will be physically identical to the original organism. Somatic cell manipulation is simply injecting new genes into somatic cells in order to cure a disease such as hemophilia. Germline manipulation is altering the genes in sex cells that are passed onto offspring, so that the offspring will posses certain specific characteristics.

From the descriptions of these few processes, it can be seen why genetic engineering has become such a controversial issue. Genetic engineering deals with the very intricate, orderly, processes of human life. Genetics is so complex that it is extremely risky to be getting too far into the engineering without knowing the exact results of the actions. Unfortunately, experimentation is the only way to discover some of the outcomes. Some scientists argue that the medical benefits of genetic engineering could be so great, that the experimentation is worth it. There is the possibility that cures to life-threatening diseases could be found through genetic engineering in somatic cell manipulation, for example.
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