Genetic Modification

Genetic modification is an incredibly multifaceted topic, filled with grey areas. For centuries man has used genetics to his advantage through selective breeding, but humanity is now ready to enter the major leagues of genetic manipulation. This has the potential to end hunger and many diseases around the world, but at the same time has the possibility of causing entirely new diseases and ravishing fragile ecosystems. With all of its aspects it is hard to make a broad statement about genetic modification, but rather each part must be examined individually.

With the mapping of the human genome it is now possible to identify genes that create an increased likelihood of inheriting diseases. While medically this seems to be a blessing, morally this could be a grotesque violation of privacy. Making this available to possible employers or health insurance companies would disadvantage people based on probabilities and genetics which they have no control over. Though it almost definitely would not be taken to the level seen in “Gattaca” it would still be a violation of privacy and completely unfair.

Moral quandries aside, using genetics to create customized medicine could save millions of lives and dollars. Different genes make different medicines more or less effective. In this time of outrageous healthcare costs, customized genetic medicine could be just the answer we need.

While I feel that studying genes to find effective medicine is an acceptable method of stopping disease, genetic engineering of humans is not. Though human arrogance disagrees, we are total and complete amateurs playing with possibly the most complicated aspect of life. It may be one thing to experiment on animals, it is entirely different to alter humans. DNA controls all life with only ACG and T, altering these has almost definite unforeseen consequences to the human it happens to. This could also have drastic non-biological side effects such as inequality and oppression based on natural versus genetically enhanced conception.

Even outside of humans, genetic modification is incredibly controversial. Use of gene cloning to create genetically modified crops has the potential to cause many problems such as destroying ecosystems and affecting human health. However, with over 6 trillion people on earth and starvation an ever present problem, conventional farming just won’t cut it anymore. As Norman Borlaug argues, while many in the first world want to worry about organic food, do not take away the possibility of food for the hungry of the third world. While we should definitely exercise caution in genetic modification of food, it is far better for a person to die at 60 from cancer caused by food that at 6 of hunger from lack there of.

As far as reproductive cloning is concerned I don’t think that there is even much debate. The vast majority of people find the idea despicable, and while at some point or another a lone scientist may clone a human being I really don’t think that humanity will have to worry about the ethical issues of cloning humans commercially for a very long time.

Therapeutic cloning on the other hand is immensely polemical. On the one hand it could improve the quality of life for many people, on the other it could completely end the lives of potential humans. Honestly, before this class I always felt that stem cells should definitely be used to help the injured. However, the argument that it is only ending potential life to help actual life did the opposite of what it was intended to me. I feel that I only have the potential of growing up to be a productive part of society, so should my life be less valued than someone who already is? However with in vitro fertilization they would not simply be creating life to end it, but instead using cells that would be burned anyways for a productive purpose. Overall I cannot decide one way or another on this issue.

Overall genetic modification is helpful to civilization. However, unrestrained genetic modification, science without humanity, is the recipe for disaster. We must procede with caution , but procede nonetheless.