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Introduction: definition and development
Genetic engineering refers to the manipulation of the gene composition of organisms, to come up with organisms, which have different characteristics from the organic ones (Grace n.p.). This modification involves the introduction of foreign DNA into the genes of an organism, which gives it a different character trait, based on the type of DNA agent introduced. Genetic engineering can also be done through the introduction of synthetic genes into an organism, to change its gene composition and produce an organism that is different from natural organisms (Ackerman n.p.).
The history of genetic engineering dates back to the 1970s, where the first gene recombination was done on bacteria. Following the successful alteration of the bacteria characteristics, scientists continued with their desire to pursue further gene manipulations. Eventually, they managed to experiment with gene modification in mice, in 1974, which was successful (Murnaghan n.p.). As a result, genetic engineering found its way into plants, animals, and then human beings.
Present uses of Genetic Engineering
Genetic engineering is a field of science that is experiencing many applications in the world. Since its discovery, the field has been improved over time to encompass many other applications that were never imagined when it was invented. Genetic engineering has found great applications in the field of medicine, where it is used to produce vaccines, used as cures for various diseases (Grace n.p.).
Scientists have been involved in studying the characteristics of various diseases and infections that affect human beings, plants, and animals. Having understood these characteristics, they look for DNA or synthetic genes that can be introduced into organisms, to neutralize or sterilize their infectious effect. Eventually, such synthetic genes are applied to manufacture vaccines that cure those infections (Ackerman n.p.).
Additionally, genetic engineering has been applied to produce antibodies and vitamins at a high rate, to enhance the healing of infections and diseases. Under natural conditions, such antibodies or vitamins can take long to be generated. Therefore, scientists have applied gene recombination and modification to hasten the process of generating them (Grace n.p.). This assists in the quick recovery of patients suffering from various illnesses that are curable through the provision of vitamins and antibodies.
Genetic engineering has also been applied in agriculture and food science for the production of artificially synthesized foods, which include fruits, vegetables, and cereals (Murnaghan n.p.). It has also been applied to produce insecticides and pesticides, which are used to prevent infection of plants. Synthetic fertilizers have also been produced through genetic engineering, which provides sufficient nutrients required by soil to support the growth of plants.
In addition, genetic engineering is being applied in human production, to generate children with desirable characteristics (Grace n.p.). This involves the alteration of the genetic structure of human beings, to generate offspring that grow fast and are resistant to infections. This is the concept of cloning, which is still being advanced to date (Ackerman n.p.).
Arguments for the benefits
There are various arguments that have been advanced in favor of genetic engineering. According to the proponents of this concept, the benefits derived from genetic engineering have made it indispensable. The first argument in support of genetic engineering is that it helps in the prevention and cure of diseases (Murnaghan n.p.). Through genetic engineering, it is possible to identify organisms that are prone to infections and those that are more resistant.
When this is done, the genetic composition of susceptible organisms can be altered through gene modification, where some DNA or gene components are obtained from the resistant breed and implanted into the genes of the susceptible organisms. This way, the resistance of susceptible organisms is boosted, and through breeding, a whole generation of resistant organisms can be produced (Grace n.p.). Additionally, infections can be treated by implanting genes that neutralize or sterilizes the infectious substances in organisms, making them unable to cause infections.
Another argument for the benefits of genetic engineering is that it can be applied to give offspring with desired characteristics. Through the concept of cloning, offspring can be generated from their parent organism and modified to suit certain characteristics that would be adaptable to the environment (Ackerman n.p.). Through the process of heredity, some inherited traits, which are not suitable for survival can be altered, giving rise to future generations that are free from such hereditary characteristics. For example, if there is a hereditary infection that is passed on from parents to their children, the genes of the present generation can be altered through gene recombination, to give rise to a future generation that is free from such infection (Grace n.p.).
Another argument for genetic engineering is that it can be used to produce species of living organisms, which are different from their mother species, creating diversity in organisms. Finally, genetic engineering can be applied to resolve various problems in the world. It can be applied to produce plants and animals that are tailor-made for the existing environmental conditions (Murnaghan n.p.).
This way, it enhances the continuous production of such plants and animals even under harsh environmental conditions, ensuring a continuous flow of food supply to the world. Other organisms can be produced that will reduce adverse environmental impacts caused by human activities. For example, plant species that consume more carbon dioxide, while releasing much oxygen can be produced, reduce the impact of global warming (Grace n.p.).
Arguments against the risks
There is fear that genetic engineering will result in the integration of modified organisms into the organic ones, causing a permanent change in natural organisms. Considering that genetically modified organisms are tailored to suit and thrive in the existing environmental conditions, they will dominate and eventually replace organic organisms (Murnaghan n.p.). This will give a completely changed environment, full of genetically modified organisms. On the other hand, natural organisms will be extinct.
Another argument against genetic engineering is the concept of morality. There is a view opposing this genetic engineering, based on the premise that it is not right for a man to alter natural creations (Grace n.p.). Therefore, genetic engineering is perceived as morally wrong, since it is man’s attempt to alter Mother Nature. Considering that the long-term consequence of these alterations is not known, it is, therefore, wrong to advance this concept (Grace n.p.).
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Prediction of the future of genetic engineering
It is not clear what genetic engineering will entail in the future. However, one thing is clear; genetic engineering is in the world to stay. Some aspects of genetic engineering seem universally acceptable by society (Ackerman n.p.). For example, crossbreeding in animals and plants is a historical practice, which has been accepted by all. With the current advancement in this field, it is possible that genetic engineering will generate future generations of offspring that are tolerant of the world’s environmental conditions. Additionally, there is a possibility that human beings will give birth to children bearing desired characteristics if this concept is pursued further (Murnaghan n.p.).
Ackerman Jennifer. Food: How Altered. National Geographic Magazine. 1996-2012. Web.
Grace. The Issues Genetic Engineering. Sustainable Table. 2003-2007. Web.
Murnaghan Ian. Are GM Foods Destroying Biodiversity? Genetically Modified Foods. 2012. Web.