Genetic engineering is one of the most amazing advancements made in the scientific field in modern times. It can be defined as the process of manipulating the DNA in order to modify it. The DNA is the blueprint of every organism, the building block if you will. As you can imagine, the ability to modify this very structure gives man almost godlike powers. Being able to modify DNA means you can potentially create anything out of a creature. Naturally, thanks to its immense potential for both good and bad, the scientific community and the laymen have responded variously to genetic engineering. Like everything else, even this great advancement has its own share of pitfalls. In this article, we will look at both sides of the issue.
Positive effects of genetic engineering:
We will first see how genetic engineering can be put to good use.
The biggest advantage of genetic engineering is, of course, in the field of diseases. Genetic diseases can be completely eliminated by the implementation of genetic engineering. Sine genetic anomalies cause certain diseases, scientists can introduce mutations in the genes that would eradicate the possibility of such diseases from occurring, thus completely eradicating hereditary illnesses such as diabetes, heart diseases, and even some forms of cancer. Not only that; people who have contracted diseases from external influences can be cured by removing the gene that fell prey to the influence. Genetic engineering can also be use to make people healthier by introducing mutations that lead to stronger immunity and longer life spans.
Help in biotechnology
Biotechnology stands to gain immense benefits from genetic engineering. And this is not the stuff science fiction is made of; even today, scientists are actively deliberating the possibility of xenotransplantation, or the transplant of living tissues from one organism to another. Animals possessing organs with similar properties as those in humans are being debated for use in transplantation; for instance, pigs, which are similar in physiology and tissue structure to humans, are being actively considered for heart and lung transplants. Needless to say, this will have far reaching effects on human life; the wait for suitable organs will definitely become much shorter if animal organs can be harvested, and vice versa.
Eradicate world hunger
With an ever growing population, food shortage in the near future has become a worrying possibility. Genetic engineering can do a lot of good in this respect. Plants are already being modified to contain more nutrients and produce more crops, and this process can be accelerated further. If more and more genetically modified crops are produced, there will be a drive to make the process cheaper, and the wide availability of crops will bring down food prices all over the world. Needless to say, channeled properly, genetic engineering does have the propensity to permanently eradicate hunger and related diseases from the world map.
Negative effects of genetic engineering:
All said and done, there are some very distinctly worrying consequences of genetic engineering.
The biggest concern is of course the uncertainly that is born out of the unfamiliarity of the whole thing. Since this is a fairly new processes and mostly in the research stage, many people are worried that it might lead to unforeseen complications. The introduction of a mutation in the gene might give positive results, but it might turn the tables and turn into a rogue gene that will corrupt the entire system. It might give rise to new diseases that will have no cure for years to come.
On a bigger scale, the possibility of militant groups harnessing the process of genetic engineering is very real. Genetically engineered virus and bacteria can be created and unleashed on the world as very effective, and deadly, biological weapons. It will certainly not be a fun scenario to be in a world where there is the constant threat of being affected by a virus or bacteria that has been genetically engineered to resist all known attempts of killing them.
The newness of genetic engineering has caused it to meet with a lot of skepticism, and although not all of the criticism is grounded in solid facts or science, they are certainly worth giving a thought. The biggest point of contention against genetic engineering is that it is not man’s place to play God, that is, make changes that go against the natural order of things. However, this doesn’t really hold up, considering that humans and animals would have very short life spans if nature had been given free rein to run its course. There are of course some inherent dangers to genetic engineering, and it is up to the scientists to weigh the pros and cons before they embark on massive steps.