Genetic engineering is the alteration of genetic material by direct intervention in genetic processes with the aim of creating new substances or improving the functions of the existing ones. It is a young, exciting, and controversial branch of the biological sciences. It brings with it the possibilities for cure of several genetic diseases and numerous material improvements to the every day life of man. Human genome projects is one of the signs of benefit of genetic engineering where as there are also threats for potential malicious use of the technology.
Scientists are now able to create new species of animals by transferring genetic material from one or more organisms and genetically modifying them into the genes of another organism. The process results in creation of new organisms which are completely new to the earth and are made to specifically posses the traits that humans desire in either plants or animals (Arnold, para. 3). This simply implies that through genetic engineering, farm animals can be made to grow faster and have desirable traits like having healthier meat and flesh and tolerant to pain and suffering which are always common in the current farms.
Genetically modified animals are also used in research to enable researchers discover treatments for genetic diseases such as breast cancer. Animals which are facing extinction or those that are endangered can be cloned and this serves the wildlife management in achieving their goal of preserving and also ensuring that endangered animals information are not lost when the last of them finally dies (Barash, para. 4). Principles of genetic engineering
The focal point of genetic engineering is the recombinant DNA which simply means a DNA which is genetically altered via the process referred to as gene splicing. In gene splicing, a DNA strand is divided into a half in terms of its length and joined with genetic material from another organism or another species of organism. Application of gene splicing results in two new important techniques. Gene transfer or inclusion of genetic material into the cell of another organism is achieved through the use of micro organisms that serve as vectors or carriers.
Gene therapy is therefore defined as introduction of normal or genetically changed genes to cells so as to replace the faulty genes which are responsible for genetic disorders (Chadwick, para. 3). It is also possible to divide DNA into shorter strands by the use of restriction enzymes whereby enzyme in this context refers to a type of protein that hastens the process of chemical reactions. The ends of the shorts fragments are highly attracted to complementary ends on the other DNA fragments and will be attracted to those strands found in the target DNA.
By simply looking at the size of the fragment created through the use of enzymes, researchers are able to know whether the gene has proper genetic code or not. The technique has been employed in the analysis of fetal cells and in diagnosis of some specific blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia (Branford, p. 23). Genetic engineering just like any other important technology or human action has benefits and costs. It is just similar to convectional industrial technology which is quite beneficial but can also be extremely dangerous if it is not practiced with caution.
When the technology is used exclusively for constructive purposes such as a generation of medicine and research for human diseases, it can be very useful to the society. The use of genetic engineering for biological warfare raises a lot of concerns on the potential of abuse of this technology. In discussing genetic engineering, this paper is going to consider the pros and cons of the technology in the fields of agriculture, medicine, and food production (Perzigian, para. 5).