While genetic engineering is currently making a permanent mark in the society, and its promise of great things to come, the technology is faced with a lot of controversies about the ramifications it has for the society and the environment. The most common people against this practice are environmental advocates together with animal rights activists. For each benefit that genetic engineering brings, there is an intrinsic danger which comes with it.
In general, the opponents of the technology maintains that it creates a huge reduction in the position of animals, rendering them as nothing more than testing objects for factory farming, drug and organ manufacturing. There are real and assumed potential risks associated with genetic engineering (Poulter, p. 23). Genetic engineering in terms of gene therapy can be a very dangerous business (Nicholl, p. 300).
In gene therapy, a micro organism which in most cases is the virus is used as a carrier to deliver the genes being introduced inside the cell, there is some degree of fear about the possible virulence of the carrier virus despite the fact that virulence factors have been suppressed. There is also a possibility of the gene landing in the wrong place and resulting in harm to the individual by being expressed in unusual ways. There have been numerous deaths experienced in gene therapy trials with the most popular case being of Jesse Gelsinger which occurred in 1999 (Chadwick, para.
9). Opposition to the use of genetic engineering in food and agriculture is based on several fears. One of the fears is that a gene which is supposed to make crops resistance to herbicide may spill to other crops resulting in some kind of super weed or a genetic modification that is transmitted through pollination. Creation of such plants is likely to pose some hazard to the ecosystem. There is also an issue that unusual gene expression may results in crops which are more likely to elicit allergic reactions in the people.
There is also a possibility that genetic engineered foodstuffs can result in altered nutritional value in the process of improving tastes and appearance (Barash, para. 6). Horizontal gene transfer can result in new pathogens. In the process of increasing resistance to diseases in plants, the genes responsible for resistance may get transferred to harmful pathogens. Gene therapy in humans can result in some specific side effects. While trying to treat one problem, the therapy may result in another problem.
Since a single cell is responsible for several traits, identification and isolation of a single cell responsible for a single trait is not easy (Mae-Wan Ho & Cummins, p. 149). Genetic engineering in humans can hinder the diversity of human beings. Cloning can be dangerous to individuality. In addition, such processes may not be afforded by the majority of the people thus making gene therapy impossibility for the common man (Branford, p. 23). Transgenic agricultural animals pose various threats.
There is a possibility that creating more efficient farm animals will bring to a standstill the process of selective breeding thereby resulting in lessened genetic diversity of animals. Through this, a whole hard can become susceptible to new strains of infectious diseases. An example of such a procedure which led to more problems to the animals engineered was implantation of human growth hormone into a pig by the USDA. The resultant pigs were bowlegged, cross eyed, arthritic, and had a faulty immune system which made them highly susceptible to pneumonia.
The same thing can happen to cows which are normally administered with growth hormones to increase milk production are also likely to suffer from udder diseases (Jeremy, p. 11). Should the genetically engineered animals escape into the wild, they expose native animals’ populations to great risks and are likely to interfere with the overall balance of the ecosystem. These animals are likely to pose ecological roulette because their exact function in the ecology is not clear.
There is also another fear concerning genetic engineering that it is likely to reduce the human gene pool thereby making man quite susceptible to several diseases. Cloning also falls under genetic engineering and if the practice is taken over by malicious individuals, clones can be made for doomsday army or anything more serious than that. The practice is also considered both inhumane and unethical. Improper testing on animals is likely to result in some damage to the ecosystem (Arnold, para. 8).
Genetic engineering has the potential of causing more serious problems in the future. According to history, it takes a few decades for the complete set of risks linked with any technology to be realized. One of such development was CFC which people did not predict could cause more harm to the ozone layer like it did. The ability to think about the potential risks of genetic engineering in the future is masked by the available knowledge in the related disciplines such as psychology, genetics, and nutrition.
The current pressure exerted in the food production can be equated to that experienced by the UK authorities who made them not to link BSE with a new variant of the incurable condition which was reported in man referred to as CJD. Those individuals who linked the two conditions were criticized. Unlike other faulty technology mistakes which can be fixed by redesigning the machinery, mistakes associated by genetic engineering are a bit complex and cannot be easily rectified (Barash, para. 10). Conclusion Genetic engineering is a valuable technology, but is does not lack faults and technical difficulties.
Just like other technologies, there is non with absolute safety or zero risk. Every technology comes with risk attached to it and genetic engineering is not an exception. As long as the benefits associated with the technology are far much beyond its negative effects, and there are efforts put in place to ensure that the risks associated with it are minimized, new technologies such as genetic engineering should be pursued with a lot of dynamism. Works cited: Arnold, Paul. Pros and Cons of Genetic Engineering, 2009. Retrieved on May 3, 2010 from: http://www.
brighthub. com/science/genetics/articles/15678. aspx? p=2 Barash, David P. Revolutionary Biology: The New, Gene-Centered View of Life. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 2001. Branford, Sue. “Why Argentina can’t feed itself: How GM soya is destroying livelihoods and the environment in Argentina,” The Ecologist, October 2002, page 23. Chadwick, Ruth F. The Concise Encyclopedia of the Ethics of New Technologies. San Diego: Academic Press, 2001. Jeremy, Rifkins. The Biotech Century, 1998. London, Victor Gollanz. Mae-Wan Ho, Harmut Meyer ; Cummins, Joe.
“The Biotechnology Bubble,” The Ecologist May/June 1998, page 149. Nicholl, S. T. Desmond. An Introduction to Genetic Engineering. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Perzigian, Andrew B. A Brief Overview of Genetic Engineering and Animals, 2003. Retrieved on May 3, 2010 from http://www. animallaw. info/articles/qvusgeneticengineering. htm Perzigian, Andrew B. Genetic Engineering and Animal Rights: The Legal Terrain and Ethical Underpinnings, 2003. Retrieved on May 3, 2010 from: http://www. animallaw. info/articles/ddusgeneticengin. htm