TEXT OF ESSAY

*I’ve given much thought to all of the topics presented in this prompt and struggled internally to attempt to uncover my core beliefs on each respective subject. This has been a rather difficult response to write because my philosophy varies, often greatly, from subject to subject. I haven’t fully addressed all of the topics yet, so I apologize the incompleteness of it. I'm still struggling with my philosophy on cloning. So, if you will, let’s take a deep breath and begin.*

As we discover and develop the new technologies that are present at our fingertips, we, as humans, have began experimenting on what is possible for us to change about both ourselves and our surroundings. We can create our own super-foods to create a surplus or more resilient forms of sustenance. We can culture and grow living tissues within clear plastic. We’ve even managed to clone full-sized, fully functional mammals. And now, with scientists clawing away at the human genome project, it’s only a matter of time until we understand ourselves completely. However, the question soon arises, “How much is too much?” We’ve already managed to contaminate nature’s gene pool. Now, we’re prepared to erase heredity entirely and progress to an age of “designer” humans. Step after step, man is slowly progressing down the slippery slope to an era of impersonality and a world without nature. So where do we draw the line? Between Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), cloning and genetic engineering, this ethical question has become a difficult one.

An issue that, oddly enough, is slowly beginning to lose steam is the controversy over GMOs. For decades now, scientists have been incorporating genes from other organisms into food-products that have been consumed by the people of the world, often unknowingly. Of course, scientists claim this wasn’t even an issue until people actually knew about it, so it obviously poses no significant health risks, right? Well, the truth is that we haven’t had enough long-term experience with these modified organisms to definitively state whether they are harmful or not. But honestly, we put many more harmful chemicals into our body knowingly via junk food that I think a single fish gene in my strawberry won’t cause me much harm.

Instead, I’m more concerned with the long term effects of human medaling with Mother Nature. When foods are spliced with genes resistant to disease, all it will lead to is a more resilient strain of the virus that forces us to modify the gene once again, beginning an endless cycle. Plants infused with insect-killing properties can devastate an ecosystem by removing a key member of the circle. Of course, these plants are regulated and only planted in certain areas, but cross-breeding is such a regular occurrence in nature that it is almost idiotic to assume that they will stay strictly in that single area. And what about the fast-growing fish that have had genes altered to mature at a significantly faster pace? Should even just a single fish escape their barriers, the effects could be devastating; an explosion in the population that could easily wipe out their food source and ultimately lead to their extinction. I understand the importance of these techniques in food production, we have a rather large population and we need to ensure the ability to provide sustenance for them all. However, I feel we need to realize that, at least for the time being, we only have this one planet. All it takes is one mistake and we can ruin our home and our species. To me, the risk simply is not one that stacks up logically.

We’ve all been made aware of the benefits of genetic engineering. The most obvious of these being the absolute eradication of disease from the human genome, thus improving the “quality of life”. We can remove "undesireable" traits, such as violent tendencies or a lame appendage. In an ideal society, I doubt there would be any opposition to a disease-free world. Unfortunately, it won’t end there, and for this reason I cannot support it. The loss of personability and the “human element” that would occur would be devastating. Not to mention the impracticality of genetic engineering, both financially and when considering overpopulation. We can barely afford the population as it is, and overcrowding is a significant issue in many countries. I would like to know how scientists plan to allow for an explosion in the population that would require the same food, living space and social interactions that we all need. Not to mention the increasing competition over scarce resources and dwindling job opportunities. One would almost require a genetically engineered foundation to even survive in such a society. The genetic lower class that would no doubt result would be stamped “defect” from birth and never even receive a fighting chance. Instead of trying to change the fact that we are all human, I believe the focus needs to be shifted to improving the quality of life for someone who can actually make that choice, not a fetus in the womb.

I must admit that stem cell research is a topic that I've been struggling with as of late. I can easily see the pros and cons, and am torn internally between a thirst for advancement and a respect for natural life. I'm an extremely religious individual, which makes the controversial question of when life begins a very tough one for me. Many of my religious counterparts believe that humans are infused with a soul at the exact moment of conception. The scientist in me believes that it may not be until the first breath is taken and the lungs are filled with life-giving air. I've come to a common acceptance that an embroyo is only such when actual viable tissues begins to form. Stages before that, the blastocys stages, definitely hold the potential for life, but I don't feel that they maintain the same level of humanity as a fully-formed embryo does. We've come to see it as acceptable to step on an ant, a fully functioning and living creature, but a small cluster of cells warrant more respect. In some ways, I fully understand. It could be a human life. It grow into someone just like you and me. But the truth is that it probably will not. More than likely, that small blastocys will head to an incinerator and never make it past the very basic first stage of life. I know numerous people in my life that would benefit greatly from the research that would come from this sort of study. If these cells, the most basic example of life, moreso than an ant or even a bacterium, can help cure my brother of his Type 1 Diabetes, find a cure to my grandmother's cancer or find a way to treat the Alzehiemers that plagues my family, I have a hard time disagreeing with the practice.