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