Genetics and Cloning

“Why not seize the power?” Why not make everyone absolutely identical, perfect examples of what the modern day Homo-sapiens should be? Just because we can, does not mean that we should. Diversity is what keeps life interesting but people do not need to be suffering from paralysis or debilitating birth defects. Through the powers of our human ingenuity are we playing God or simply helping our species through cloning, mapping the human genome and manipulating genetics?

One of the largest fears in the American society, besides terrorists, is identity theft. Now imagine that, times every gene in your DNA. Scary huh? If people can bankrupt you with a few numbers, imagine what they could do with your genetic sequence. Health insurance companies can deny you coverage simply because of your past medical records. If they were able to get a hold of your genetic sequence they would not cover anyone simply because of the possibility of future illnesses. The automatic, forever lasting nakedness that would come from having your genome fully sequenced is both awe-inspiring and terrifying. The mystery would be annihilated and hypochondriacs would be having mental breakdowns left and right. There are some things that I feel should be left to the unknown. People would change their lifestyles, or at least they hopefully would, to prevent diseases and disorders that are marked on their genes from becoming active. It is an essential step in genetic engineering, I do feel that it is important and I would never want to prevent people from being able to sequence their genome, I just know that I would not want to have it done.

Customizing genetic medicine is a brilliant idea. No more having to waste time and money on knock offs that might only get the job half done. To have the exact solution for your specific illness would be life changing. Genetic engineering is still in its early stages. The only thing most people can compare it to is media entertainment. I feel that genetic engineering should only be used on humans if it is to delete debilitating diseases from the sequence. To eliminate spin bifida, cancer, paralysis, aids etc. one can only dream of at the moment. The possibilities are endless. Suffering is an enormous part of human experience and genetic engineering would help eliminate a huge part of the suffering. This would not make life less fulfilling; it would make it even more. Just because you are not paralyzed or are not suffering from some random disorder, does not mean that you will never suffer in your life.

Designer babies, what a boring life that would create, a real life Gattaca, if you will. Your imperfections are what make you who you are. Society would more than likely become like the society in Gattaca. There is already enough racism and inequality in the world as it is. The thought of this makes me think about our selfishness. There are people dying from simplistic diseases that could easily be solved with clean water and we ‘don’t have the time, money, or resources to help them’ yet we would be spending billions of dollars on experimenting on cells for our own selfish benefit. It would be wonderful to be able to spend billions of dollars on experimentations but what we need to do is fix things from the bottom, to help bridge the gap that is only getting wider as time goes by between ‘our world’ and the developing world.

I feel that genetically modified foods can save thousands of lives of starving people in the third world countries. I highly doubt that they care if their sweet potatoes are organic or not, just if it will actually grow and have good yields. People who do not even understand what it feels like to be starving are against GMOs. “Some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the Earth, but many of them are elitists,” stated Norman Borlaug, a revolutionary Noble Peace Prize winner, to the Atlantic Monthly magazine. “They’ve never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for 50 years, they’d be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things.” They can be the ones to buy and grow organic foods which are more expensive. Patenting a gene seems rather bizarre to me. The whole idea of charging people extra for something you created to make food cheaper does not make sense to me. I do understand that the companies have spent massive amounts of money experimenting with the genes and take years of valuable time for projects that only end up in errors. I believe that they should be compensated for their goods. They should be able to patent their work but that should only apply to the wealthier first world countries, that way the struggling countries would be able to afford it. There is the possibility of the GMOs of being harmful for human consumption so they should be tested thoroughly before they are released to the majority. Gene splicing can also be dangerous because of allergens, take peanuts for example, so food that is genetically altered should be labeled for the safety of the consumer.

Reproductive cloning simply sounds like a bad idea. The first thing that comes to my mind is Frankenstein. I understand that the majority feels that same way as I do. Well for one thing, our planet is already vastly over populated. It should definitely be illegal simply because it could easily fall down a slippery slope. It merely seems dangerous and frivolous and should be the farthest boundary set on cloning experimentation, to prevent us from going overboard.
Another type of cloning is for therapeutic means. It is a process using an egg with a donor nucleus. It is most commonly associated with stem cell research and can potentially be used in regenerative medicine. This could allow paraplegics to walk again, spinal injuries not nearly as detrimental, or for someone who is paralyzed from the neck down to simply move a finger. People who had full, lovely, exciting lives are permanently bound to wheelchairs and beds simply because a cell culture has more rights than they do.

On that note I would like to state that I am fully behind the idea of stem cell research. Religious believers argue that stem cell research is immoral and that it is a Godless act, murdering helpless babies. Being an Atheist does not make me entirely numb, immoral, or heartless. It just means that I do not believe that there is a higher power involved in anything whatsoever. I respect other people’s opinions but it does bother me when they push their beliefs on me. I have always been a believer in science and physical fact and the plain fact about stem cell research is that it is taking a bundle of donated cells that happen to be from an ovum and manipulate their mitotic cell division to create a wide variety of cells which may eventually be capable of saving lives. People object to working with embryos because they claim that that little bundle of donated cells is already a human. Every 28 days or so, an egg is shed from a fertile woman’s uterus, dead and gone, entirely useless. It is the same idea, except the egg is artificially inseminated. No actual possibility of life, so why not make the best of what is given to them? There is a variety of sources for highly plastic adult stem cells such as umbilical cord blood and bone marrow. I feel that they should continue to progress but only use umbilical cord blood and bone marrow so that the conservative, prolife side of the argument will be satisfied because the precious bundles of cells would only go in an incinerator instead of being destroyed by the scientists. That part of the equation I do not fully understand, why bother burning the donated eggs instead of using them? It seems like a horrific waste to me. Something that had such potential on either side of the equation, either being used for stem cell research or to be born, just to be thrown away. But that part is not being debated, it is all about if it is right or wrong.

In conclusion, we should do some things just because we can. But we should keep strict barriers and keep the experimentation under control. We are using reason to help our species move forward and to help eliminate some of the suffering that comes along with life so we can survive all of the other ways that we are suffering.