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Essay/Term paper: Genetic engineering

Essay, term paper, research paper:  English Composition

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The Pros and Cons of Genetic Engineering

Genetic engineering is the growing science of the world and is increasingly under the spotlight over ethical issues. Is biotechnology going to save lives, rather than destroy them? and will the benefits outweigh the risks? The main problem with such questions is that we don't know the answer until we try them out. Like all sciences it is hard to predict outcomes, so far there have been more failures being told than success stories.

Genetic engineering is the splitting of DNA out of an organism"s gene, and then transplanted and recombined into a hosts DNA sequence. This method allows the host organism (if successful) to then show the desired trait or characteristic. This method promises to give us plants that can grow throughout droughts or mice that can grow human organs, the boundaries seem to be limitless.

Pros to genetic engineering seem to be very promising and sometimes not believable. For example cross splicing a bacteria with a plant, so as the plant can produce its own toxin, and thus be safe against pests. This has already been done in Australia with the cotton plants, which are being ruined by bollworms. But with every pro there is a con. So far in the rest of the world, the success stories aren"t quite as renown. Some farmers are losing up to 1 million dollars a year due to deformities in the cotton plants with their bolls falling off. Something like ¼ of the acreage used for cotton farming in the USA is ruined by biotechnology and its creation of deformed plants.

Genetic engineering also promises to splice a herbicide tolerant gene with a common crop gene, which will create a herbicide tolerant crop. This means that the chemical"s poisonousness doesn"t affect the crop any more, in which case will allow us to be rid of weeds in areas where crops grow. Possible problems with this would be that if it bred with a wild relative, the relative would then show the characteristic of being herbicide tolerant and would then be immune to any chemicals sprayed on it, thus the creation of a superweed. This is also the case with pesticide tolerant crops, but this time the farmers can use any toxic chemicals that kill everything including pests and the crop will remain unaffected. These techniques show signs of promise in that it will help us reduce the number of weeds and pests, but altering the genetic structure of an organism is ethically wrong.

Genetic engineering could be described as a killing machine, but could also prove to be the earth"s one and only saviour. With the world population predicted to increase to 10 billion people in the next 40 years, and with each person at the moment eating up to 1 tonne of food every year, the planet needs all the help it can get in order to survive. Genetic engineering could prove to increase yields of crops by up to 40%, as it is said that up to 70% of all fruits and vegetables become spoiled before even put on the market shelves.

It seems that genetic engineering is one of the only sciences that can pull the species out of the whirlpool of extinction for another 100 or so years, but it cannot be relied on, yet. So far the science hasn"t been successful, but as we experiment and progress the science will become perfected and it could promise genetically altered humans to survive the harshest conditions, or maybe some humans that can produce oxygen from the air in space so we can survive on other planets. The possibilities seem to be limitless.

The only fear at the moment is that we are leaving off where Hitler left us, following in his footsteps. Could the governments be trying to create the perfect race, was dolly the sheep just a stepping stone to improved biological weapons. Genetic engineering seems to have the pros and cons, but the cons are basically assuming the worst or are being used for the destruction of mankind, rather than the saving of mankind.

The reduction of the gene pool also seems to be a huge risk to take. If recessive genes are erased from an organism, then the gene pool will be reduced resulting in everything being the same. For instance, if everyone was to have blond hair, all the children of the world would be the same. The reduction of the gene pool is a serious threat in that species rely on differences in order to survive, that's how rabbits survived the myxoma virus.

Such decisions are difficult to make at first, the possibilities are amazing, yet the risks are frightening. Sciences can never promise 100% all of the time, and looking down the track it seems that the human race will come to a bad end in the relatively near future and the only saviour it seems is biotechnology and genetic engineering.


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