Genetic engineering one of the most recent technological
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Genetic engineering, one of the most recent technological
sciences, is now a great issue in society. While the effects of
it can be very helpful in some ways, it can also cause many
problems. In spite of potential risks, genetic engineering
should be allowed in some fields of science.
Collier's Encyclopedia defines genetic engineering as
"recombinant DNA technology, the application of biochemical and
genetic techniques to alter the chromosomal materials, the basic
genetic substance of cells" (Kornberg 1993, 620-621). Genetic
engineering has been applied in various areas such as in plants,
animals, and now even in humans. The MacGregor's tomatoes, the
first genetically engineered food product to be sold commer-
cially, are now available in supermarkets across America.
Though the tomatoes start out regularly, they are artificially
ripened with ethylene gas. An extra gene is also added to make
them firm enough to handle shipping ("Consumer Reports" 1995,
480-481). The first animal genes to be combined with other
genes, in this case the genes of the E. Coli bacteria, was a
toad. After combining the genes of the toad with the E. Coli
genes, the toad showed both the composition of the toad and the
E. Coli. These transgenic genes, or foreign genes obtained from
another animal, can be transferred in three different ways - by
injection into a fertilized egg, by using a virus to carry the
gene with it into a cell, or by utilizing the unspecialized stem
cells from an
embryo (Kornberg 1993, 620-621). Last but not least comes the
genetic engineering of human beings. "One microscopic cell - a
fertilized egg - contains all the information needed to produce a
complete working human, and long before birth, that cell develops
into a fetus that itself contains the potential for millions of
humans to come," says World Press Review (Radford 1994, 22-23).
Tinkering with genetic material may soon allow us to select
characteristics in our children, and possibly even in ourselves.
"Gene therapy could become the cosmetic surgery of the next
century," says George Annas of Boston University (Olson and
Gershon 1994, 6-7).
There are many advantages of genetic engineering. Many
reported the MacGregor tomatoe to be slightly better-tasting than
regular tomatoes found in supermarkets. Thanks to the extra gene
added to these tomatoes, MacGregor's tomatoes are slightly
firmer, allowing them to survive shipping for up to ten days
longer than usual ("Consumer Reports" 1995, 480-481). Other
vegetables with rapid growth and ripening rates have also been
produced by genetic engineering (Olson and Gershon 1994, 6-7).
By genetically altering genes, scientists have found ways to
produce interferons, a natural protein that fights viral
infections, and may be used in the future as a possible cure for
AIDS. Genetically engineered insulin is now being used in
treatments for diabetes. Scientists have also been able to
produce a vaccine for hepatitis, an otherwise incurable disease.
Along with producing the human growth hormone, the only known
treatment for pituitary dwarfism, recombinant DNA techniques have
produced a bacteria that is helpful in cleaning up oil spills
(Kornberg 1993, 620-621). Also through genetic engineering,
plants have been redesigned to produce plastics instead of food.
Scientists have recently succeeded in altering a pig's heart to
where it can be transplanted into a human. The genes of a sheep
have also been altered, allowing it to produce proteins needed
for the treatment of emphysema (Radford 1994, 22-23). "Genetic
engineering's most hopeful function is to cure diseases caused by
defective genes. After identifying the genes that cause disease,
doctors can remove defective blood cells from a patient, add
healthy genes, and return the treated cells to the patient,"
according to "Scholastic Update" (Olson and Gershon 1994, 6-7).
Despite all of its good points, genetic engineering also
has its disadvantages. According to "Consumer Reports", "The
main health concern is that this gene-swapping could cause
dangerous allergic reactions in some people from eating foods
without knowing about the "extra additives" being used to improve
that food" ("Consumer Reports" 1995, 480-481).
Genetic engineering also has ethical considerations. The
U.S. Human Genome Project, a project to research the genes of the
human genome (which carries information about our heritage) may
eventually be helpful in curing diseases. This project, however,
may also reveal an individual's "genetic predisposition to
physical and psychological problems." This project therefore
raises a unique question: "Should an employer, insurance company,
or the government have
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Molecular biology, Biotechnology, Emerging technologies, Gene delivery, Genetic engineering, Genome, Genetics, Human genome, Gene, Transgene, Genetically modified organism, Genetic engineering techniques
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