1,953 years after the historic birth of Jesus Christ, scientists were able to unveil the structure of DNA, the building blocks for all Earthly life forms, for the very first time. Since then, scientists have furiously been studying and manipulating the four nucleotide base pair, double helix structure in hopes to improve human life. They have mapped the human genome, transferred animal DNA to plants such as papayas, corn and soy, and even managed to clone a sheep named Dolly. As a result a great deal of talk about changing the genes of unborn babies to prevent them from inheriting a life threating disorder and using stem cells to fix spinal cords or replace organs has erupted. However, like many other scientific advances, these procedures are highly controversial. Many people can’t help but wonder whether or not people will use these procedures to design their babies and change genes that do not threaten their lives or highly impair their mental and/or physical abilities such as hair color, homosexuality and deafness. Others wonder about whether or not we are and would continue to kill millions of souls with the intent of taking advantage of the stem cells they have to offer as embryos. Consequently, if scientists are going to continue to manipulate DNA in an attempt to better human life, it is going to have to be highly regulated so that we do not slip and become a society such as the one portrayed in the movie GATTACA.

The first step to manipulating an embryos DNA or finding a customized medicine for an already living human being based on their DNA would be to sequence the DNA they already have in order to find out what needs to be changed or which medicine will work best. Unfortunately however, the moral compass of human beings as a whole is far from perfect, and as such a variety of privacy issues could arise from genetic sequencing. Who is to keep health insurance companies from getting their hands on their customer’s sequences and raising their premiums? Who is to keep classmates from taking another’s hair, having it sequenced and then posted on the internet? As of now, nobody. Furthermore, there is the question as to whether or not we would really want to know our genetic fate. In the event that we find something wrong with our genome, which at this point in time seems inevitable, after all nobody is perfect, we could either sit around and wait for nature to take its course and pray that our epigenetics will change the outcome, or do everything within our power to prevent it or treat it as early as possible with no actual guarantee instead. If humans were to have their DNA sequenced there should be some way of controlling the privacy. DNA sequencing could have many medical advantages, however it could also prevent those who would need new medical advances the most from ever receiving them. As such people need to find a way to keep the sequence to the person it belongs to and their doctors unless given personal permission to do otherwise, and only take cells that the sequencer themselves has harvested directly from the person’s body.
As science continues to advance and more can be read from a genetic sequence scientists are finding ways to customize medicine based on a person’s genetic code. Scientists are now finding a correlation between the common asthma medication Albuterol and specific genetic haploid types which determines the effectiveness of the medication. As a result, were doctors able to see which haploid type a person with asthma possessed they would be able to see whether or not they should prescribe their patient with the common inhaler and nebulizer solution Albuterol or a less common solution such as Ipratropium Bromide. The same could be said with cancer treatments, medications for Alzheimer’s and Heart Disease, the possibilities are endless. The only drawback to customized medicine would be insurance companies not giving their patients a choice to which medication they decide to use, after all the medication that could prove to be the most beneficial to the patient as defined by the physician and insurance company may prove to have many unwanted side effects so it is important that the patient is still able to decide which treatment route and drawbacks they wish to have.

Next, there is the controversial issue of genetic engineering. Genetic engineering could have the ability to almost always guarantee a person a worry free life in terms of genetic related health care. It could prevent genetic related cancers, Cri du Chat Syndrome, Tay Sachs and Alzheimer’s Disease thereby saving and lengthening a patient’s life. At the same time however, it could also destroy and/or save human diversity and equality, but seeing the damage human beings have already had on the world and its environment and the amount of lives lost in the Holocaust and WWI AND WWII, it would most likely destroy it. Parents could choose whether or not to have a deaf child rather than allowing nature to take its course and have the child receive a cochlear implant and choose whether or not they wish or perceive themselves to be deaf or hearing; the only exception to this option being Usher Syndrome in which case the parents would have to choose themselves or simply have that gene altered instead. They could choose to have a child with red hair and green eyes or blonde hair and blue eyes, a characteristic many believe to becoming extinct. Parents could also change their child’s sexual and romantic preference and gender identity. Homo, Bi, Pan, Multi and A sexuality and romanticism would most likely begin to quickly vanish along with Transgendered, Transexual, Genderless, Androgynous, Genderqueer and Gender variant individuals. The problem with changing gender identity is that it may or may not be closely tied to many characteristics that individual would possess and by changing it we could be destroying a part of their character. One little change is all that it takes to alter the course of the world. Had one of the millions of bullets fired during WWI been one or two inches off target the Holocaust along with WWII may have never taken place. It is important that people remember how important the little things in life are when deciding whether or not to alter their child’s genetic code. Scientists should also make it so that only life threatening diseases and those that highly impair a person’s mental and/ or physical ability could be altered unless altering a gene such as the one that may cause Usher’s Syndrome so as to allow the child the freedom of choice. This way the diversity of the world and the equality that has so far come as a result of the diversity and the equality that has yet to come but hopefully will soon, will not be hinder as a result of human actions that many would consider selfish.

Through the manipulation of DNA scientists have also discovered many different cloning techniques; the most commonly used one being the technique used in transgenic crops also known as genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Food companies and farmers having been harvesting and selling genetically modified crops since the early 1990s. They say that these crops are safe, however there is no way to know if there are any long term health effects from them since the FDA does not require GMOs to be labeled, resulting in millions of unknowing Americans consuming foods that could contain peanut, mosquito or some other type of plant or animal gene that wasn’t originally part of the food they think they’re eating. However, these crops may just be able to cure world hunger and save millions of starving individuals. These crops are designed to resist specific infections that cause them to wither, decay and prevent them from growing to their full potential. As a result more corn, tomatoes and sweet potatoes can be harvested and sold and more food can be consumed from each individual fruit or vegetable. At the same time though, scientists are having to find to prevent the spread of resistant bacteria and viruses so that the GMOs will last and are having a hard time getting farmers to actually act according to their agreements. Consequently, it may get to a point where the GMOs have as little resistance as the natural crop itself and the scientist have to return to the lab and find a new gene that will resist infection thereby raising prices once again because they own the gene and need some sort of compensation for the time, money and effort they put discovering it and correct primers needed for the reaction. The fact that scientific corporations can “own” a gene also presents another problem. There is no possible way for farmers to prevent their seeds from spreading to neighboring fields. As a result if the corporation finds that any of a neighboring farms crops contain their gene and they did not pay for it they can run them out of business and organic farms could also unknowing and unwillingly be selling non-organic products.

In order to satisfy as many people as possible and make the process of developing GMOs at least somewhat fair, there needs to be some forms of regulation. First there needs to be an organization that makes sure that each GMO farmer has a portion of their field that is not genetically modified. Next there needs to a way for companies to label any food products that contain transgenic crops so that people can choose whether or not they wish to risk any adverse health effects as a result of consumption. There also needs to be a law that allows neighboring field to have a certain percentage of their fields with genetically modified crops as it is not their fault when nature takes its course causing seeds to spread. Lastly, we should only use GMOs when it is absolutely necessary. When there is a virus that is wiping out an entire species that is the time to use GMOs as well as when people in third world countries are starving to death. However, once the endangered species is saved and once the countries are able to take care of themselves we should do our best to pull away from GMOs as much as possible since we do not know all of the health effects that they can cause, and so that we could possibly have them for future use should we need them.

Another type of cloning is known as reproductive cloning, which is where scientists clone entire organisms such as a lamb, cow, pig or possibly even a human. Cloning an animal besides a human is often used for meat. When a model cow is found meaning one that has a lot more meat than normal cows, farmers, with the help of scientists can decide to clone the cow so that it is more likely that they will have more meat as well. However, these animals do not tend to live as long as the originals, possibly due to the unraveling of the original’s DNA over time; then again it doesn’t exactly matter seeing as the intent is to kill the cow anyways. Cloning can also be seen as an honor. Occasionally, an animal such as a dog will be cloned as way of honoring them for a heroic act such as sacrificing its life in order to save that of another human being’s. The main service that reproductive cloning can provide to human kind however is the ability to clone oneself for healthy organs; a process that is altogether in my personal opinion unacceptable.
I grew up with clones. Natural, identical twin clones, but clones nonetheless. While they may have the same DNA, and similar characteristics they are far from being the same. They have certain distinct physical and characteristic differences. They both have the same shade of blonde hair, blue eyes and pale skin, but one is built more like a football player, the other, more like a dancer. They both have similar political opinions and can eat more food than anyone else in the family, but still have dissenting opinions on certain foods and subjects, even if the regularity of such occurrences are not to the same degree as most people, they still happen. They are different people and should be treated as such even though their DNA is the same. Christian is not Kieran and Kieran is not Christian. I would never agree to kill one so that the other could live, especially if the one who was dying would have lived, but that is exactly what some people are thinking of doing with reproductive clones and it is extremely immoral. If one of them decides to donate an organ to the other that is one thing, if people clone themselves just so that their DNA or family lineage can live on because they did not have children of their own, that would probably be reasonably alright as well, but cloning with the intent of killing them and using their organs is wrong and should never be allowed to happen.

Last but not least there is stem cell and embryonic cloning, perhaps the most controversial type of cloning so far discovered. Stem cell cloning involves taking a stem cell that originally belonged to another person, taking out the nucleus that contains the original DNA and implanting a nucleus that contains DNA of the person that the stem cell will be inserted into. Stem cells can come from many different places, they can come from an adult’s nasal cavity, or a newborn’s umbilical cord and neither of these procedures are highly controversial. However, stem cells can also come from an unborn embryo that will be burned and discarded instead of being used to improve humankind. Most of these embryos are already going to be burned so it seems perfectly logical that it would seem more respectful that, if that embryo has a soul, or should be considered a person, they would have a helpful purpose to their short lived life. Unfortunately, once again, humans’ self-serve agendas get in the way and we have to worry about people purposefully having more embryos with the specific motive of using them for their own needs. Personally, I think that people should be able to use the stem cells of the embryos that are going to be burned, I feel that it is more respectful to at least give them some purpose, but there needs to be some way to regulate the invitro process. There needs to be a limit on the amount of embryos a person can order that can only be exceeded if the invitro fertilization fails the first few times so that they are not having extras for the specific reason of using them.

The manipulation of genetic codes opens many doors for medical advancement, but in some ways it opens too many doors too widely. Therefore, we need to regulate these doors so that we do not destroy our society and the small moral compass we do possess. We need to create organizations that people can truly trust to regulation genetic manipulation, and if we do not, then we need to stop while we still can so that we do not destroy humanity. This power really is too great for one person, and if abused is too great for all people, but if well regulated has the potential to save us all.