10 Important Genetic Engineering Pros and Cons
Before diving into the pros and cons of this discipline, let’s talk about what it actually is so that the article is that much more understandable for you.
Science is a broad term and, without becoming too philosophical, it can be seen as a discipline that is continuously evolving and, in the process, giving rise to technologies and inventions that have the great potential to improve our lives significantly. A fairly recent trend that has begun happening is the fusion of different scientific disciplines whereby their synergistic co-existence has given rise to technologies that have enabled us to increase our understanding of the things around us that much more. One such science is biotechnology that is the exploitation of several living organisms for the purposes of industrial applications. As such, biotechnology has caused advancements in the field of genetics as well as molecular biology. Most notably, however, it has played a powerful role in the field of genetic engineering. The discipline is yet another example of two areas that were once each an island for itself, and now co-existing as one field that is taking genetics as well as bioengineering by a storm.
In short, genetic engineering refers to the manipulation or editing of a genetic sequence as a means to cause a change to the phenotype (the outward characteristics). More specifically, it refers to the process of using laboratory techniques to change biological systems. As exciting as this sounds, it is not all positive. So, let’s look at the important genetic engineering pros and cons and explore each one as we wonder about the advantages to society as well as disadvantages in relation to human beings. Here are five of each:
1. Personalized medicine
As mentioned before, biotechnology has advanced the field of molecular biology. This means that sequencing of DNA has become much easier and quicker than it once was. The ability to sequence an entire genome certainly helps us know the genetic blueprint of an individual. This is powerful as certain genes have been found that control a person’s response to those drugs. By means of finding out if a person carries that gene, physicians can predict that person’s response to that therapy.
2. Drug discovery
Genetic engineering has made it possible to custom engineer animals with the desired disease traits that can be studied in the laboratory. For example, worms with leukemia can be designed so that they exhibit disease symptoms that can be analyzed in the presence of drugs.
3. Increased lifespan
Given that the process of genetic engineering can pretty much eradicate any disease, this means that everyone has a higher chance of living a longer and healthier life. Some studies have demonstrated that it could be possible to live to 100–150 years by means of changing genes to slow down the aging process.
4. No more disease?
As mentioned, genetic engineering has the potential to eradicate disease. This can be done not only by removing the genetic mutations that cause disease but also by inserting genetic areas that are healthy. Either way, the outcome is a sequence free of variations that cause diseases.
5. Agriculture that ensures we won’t go hungry
Genetic engineering has made it possible to insert desired traits into crops so that their yield will increase. This will result in a lot more crops overall, which will ultimately yield a lot more food.
1. Questionable nutritional value
By virtue of genetically engineering crops so that their yield may increase, the risk of losing out on nutritional value is always present. While the yield is increased, there still remains the question of whether all aspects of the crop have been taken into consideration and whether an increased yield also means an increased yield of the exact same plant.
2. Ethics: Are we doing the right thing?
Many have asked if designing species that are naturally not available is correct from an ethical standpoint. Several religious groups do not support the notion of genetic engineering because they believe that humans should not have the right to decide which traits will be introduced among species and which will not. The belief is that survival of the fittest is nature’s decision rather than that of genetic engineers.
3. Unexpected negative side effects
The changes that come with genetic engineering are guaranteed. This means that a plant which is genetically engineered to resist pesticides will outlive the plant species that are not. However, it remains uncertain what other effects have been introduced along with the desired traits. Perhaps the plant is more resistant to pesticides but less resistant to sunlight? Along those lines, animals that are engineered to produce more milk do not live as long?
4. Introduced diversity of species may not be favorable
At some point, the genetically engineered plant species are put out into the wild. This mingling of natural and “artificial” organisms may not always result in the best outcomes. By virtue of being genetically engineered, the “artificial” species may overpower the domestic ones and introduce a diversity that is not natural or intended. This may have consequences on surrounding species that depend on domestic diversity.
5. Technology prone to abuse
While genetic engineering in humans is currently used to treat diseases, over time, it could be very similar to that in plants and animals. In other words, in addition to utilizing genetic engineering for the purpose of eliminating potentially lethal diseases, the applications may spread to using the techniques to completely eliminate any undesired traits. This has the potential to be ethically questionable and easily abused.