All throughout history, mankind has relentlessly pondered the question of what it means to be human; and it continues to be questioned to this day. From person to person and age to age, the answers are all different; yet the one fact that is the same for all is the desire to place your finger on what humanity truly means. As the times move towards biotechnological advancements, this conundrum will be a ceaseless and fundamental challenger. The key factor in keeping mankind grounded in reality is keeping the proper perspective within all action. Within that perspective is the idea that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The pros and cons must be weighed and the cost of progress must be evaluated because as biotechnology takes a leading role on the stage of life, there are unforeseen and impacting reactions to the actions of science. The world as formerly known has been forever transformed by genetic engineering. It is a loaded issue that has had both positive and negative impacts; yet, which side carries more weight? A step beyond genetic engineering is the science experimentation of cloning. Both genetic engineering and cloning take human beings into a realm of the world that was once unimaginable. It is most important to keep perspective in all the changes that are made.

The prospects of genetic engineering have vast implications on the lives of future generations. It has the chance to transform lives to eliminate diseases and alleviate unnecessary suffering. The suffering of people afflicted with childhood leukemia, Down’s syndrome, congenital heart defects, Alzheimer’s and other maladies would no longer plague this planet. The knowledge of a person’s complete genetic makeup could lead to better healthcare. Just think, medical personnel would have a better understanding of what an individual patient is afflicted with rather than deducing a generic solution from the patient’s symptoms. Treatment plan would actually be curtailed to fit the unique needs of each patient. This genetic method of prescribing medicine would eliminate the guess-and-check process that is used currently. These advancements would lead to a seemly happier life.

Some people see genetic engineering as the next step on the evolutionary stairwell; I, however, see things quite differently. Synonyms that come to mind at the thought of genetic engineering are manipulation, tampering, and alteration. All these words have negative conations; to me they seem to be the nature of the beast. It is not the next evolution because it changing fundamental aspects of evolution itself. Genetic manipulation is directly selected change where as evolution is randomly selected change as a result of natural selection. In a sense evolution is occurring because of the undeniable change that is happening; but genetic engineering is due to the direct enforcement of mankind. The species is “evolving” because the usurpation of power and control over life in an unnatural manner.

Personal genome mapping challenges the legality and privacy rooted within this knowledge. In 2008, the U.S. congress passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which states that genetic tests cannot be used for discrimination in the work place or employment. Senator Ted Kennedy is quoted for applauding GINA and saying, “It is the first civil rights bill of the new century of the life sciences.” This is true; GINA is a step in the direction of civil protection. But truly how is the law going to be enforced? The results of genetic test could fuel for the fire in which employers kept certain people out of their workforce. And how is the law going to protect people on the health insurance battle ground. The results of genetic tests will give the kiss of death as insurance companies find out that this person has 67% of getting heart disease and that person has a 34% developing breast cancer. Insurance companies will find out just how every one of their customers is a huge risk. Genetic makeup is different for each and every person; thus making is highly sensitive and a very private matter. Essentially, your DNA serves as the most exact identify tool every known. It leads to major privacy issues as your DNA is a key that unlocks a person’s deepest dark secrets.

The knowledge of genetic makeup and tampering with gene alterations challenges the balance between nature and nurture in life. How much of who we are is in our genetic make-up? And how do you quantify the impact of cultural influences? “There is no gene for the human spirit” There is no gene for fate. There is no scientific way to calculate the human will; just as is seen in the movie GATTACA. The God-born child, Vincent, is viewed as an “In-valid” in a society stinted against natural born babies to favor those that are born with a laundry list of perfect traits. The GATTACA society fails to take into an account the will power that can lead to success no matter the obstacles along the way. There is a definite immeasurable impact of cultural persuasion and its role in character development. Both nature and nurture have a yin yang influential role on the individual.

Genetically modified organisms initially make me think of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. It seems so unnatural; in yet, GMOs are in more places than I even know. The problem with GMO is the lack of regulation from the FDA. The FDA has declared them save for consumption but at the same time, GMO are not being tracked side effects. It is hard to tell if a person develops a medical condition as a result of GMO because it is unlabeled what foods there GMOs are in. Costumers need to have the choice in eating GMOs or not. Foods need to be labeled and the FDA needs to continue checking in on the “safety” of these foods. I might add that genetically enhanced cows look like disgusting steroid-ingesting beings. A major benefit to GMO is their potential to end world hunger. In the humanitarian effort, it goes back to the parable that if you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day; but if you teach a man to fish, he will eat for a lifetime. There is no doubt that nutrient enhance foods are a fabulous in the work towards getting proper nutrients to underprivileged people. On the other hand, GMO are not going to miraculously break the bonds of malnutriention in impoverished nations because GMO come from companies; companies work for a profit; there is no fiscal profit in giving food away.

In terms of cloning and stem cell research, the two seem to come directly out a science fiction novel. Cloning is a surreal concept to think of. The ability to create an exact genetic replica of another cell, tissue, or organism seems as if it would be an impossible act and decades ago it was. Again the Frankenstein feeling arises. The materials for cloning need to be kept with a moral perspective in mind. The same goes for stem cells research. It is acceptable to use adult stem cells to regenerate tissue. It is unacceptable to use embryonic stem cells. Use of embryonic stem cells destroys human life. Embryonic stem cells are raided, used, abused, and discarded in the process; it is wrong.

Glancing back over my previous statements, there seems to be an underlying concern of fear within takes steps toward any of these scientific advancements. I stand by what I have said; however, I want to acknowledge that it is in part a motivation from fear. It is the fear of the repercussions of the unknown, which is completely justified. There need not be the impression that humanity is perfect just as it is; well, because it is actually far from perfection. We are a perpetually changing and we should continue to change. Mankind needs to tread lightly when it comes to biotechnological advancements. The proper perspective must be kept in genetic engineering and cloning research. Depending on one’s perspective this quote is in support of both sides: “Do not fear the winds of adversity. Remember: a kite rises against the wind rather than with it.” As kites, it is our duty to rises against the winds of adversity, in order to soar to new heights.

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