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10 Genetic Engineering Pros And Cons

Genetic engineering is a process by which genes are manipulated in order to alter the characteristics and behaviors of an organism. This can be done via changing, deleting, or inserting specific genes within an organism’s DNA. With advances in technology occurring at unprecedented rates, the implications of technology such as genetic engineering frequently comes under question. Listed below are some of the pros and cons associated with this relatively new technology.

The Fundamentals of Genetic Engineering

Essentially, genetic engineering involves the direct manipulation of DNA in order to change the characteristics or behaviors of an organism in a specific and intended way. Once an organism has been modified, it is thereafter referred to as a genetically modified organism or GMO.

The gene which is modified may come from another species of organism, be artificially created, or come from an individual of the same species.

The applications and potential for genetic engineering are quite widespread. It is a technology which has been used in:

  • Agriculture
  • Medicine
  • Research
  • Cloning

The Pros

Proponents of genetic engineering typically put forward the following arguments:

It can Combat Diseases

Humans are very susceptible to a wide range of diseases. These can be attributable to genes which may have been inherited from your parent or from genetic mutations caused by environmental mutagens. This causes diseases such as cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer’s, and heart diseases.

Through genetic engineering, cures can be found to these diseases by altering defective genes.

It can Potentially Increase Lifespans

Genetic engineering has the potential to increase overall lifespans by reducing the incidences of diseases and infections. Effective vaccines and gene therapy can be used to deal with conditions which may at one point have been life-threatening.

It Can Make Disease Resistant Plants

When used in agriculture, genetic engineering, called biotechnology, can make crops resistant to a range of viral diseases, insects, pesticides, and herbicides. This will insure that yields are preserved.

It Can Increase the Nutritional Content of Food

Nutritional values of crops can be improved and increased with the use of biotechnology.

It Can Increase Crop Yields

With a rapidly growing global population, more and more food is needed to feed the masses. Genetic engineering can make it possible to ensure that particular areas are able to provide adequate crops for everyone in the surrounding locale.

The Cons

Nevertheless, genetic engineering is not without its critics. These are some of the disadvantages or drawbacks associated with this technology:

It is Morally and Ethically Dubious

Genetic engineering operates in what many would call a grey area. Not only does it go against the beliefs of many organized religions, it also undermines the basic tenants of evolution, princely, the survival of the fittest. Many people have questioned if it is right that man should be allowed to ‘play God’ and tamper with genes through genetic engineering.

It Can Disrupt the Ecological Balance

When organisms’ genes are tampered with the whole web of life is affected. This is because each organism is an integral part of a larger ecosystem and does not exist in isolation. Tampering with one organism could disrupt the entire ecological balance.

There is No Adequate Government Oversight

In an area of technology which is so controversial, it doesn’t help that there is very little government oversight. This is because governments want to encourage advances in biotechnology.  

It Increase the Use of Harmful Chemicals in Agriculture

Genetically modified organisms are made to be resistant to pesticides and herbicides. While the GMOs themselves are protected, these chemicals need to be used to combat diseases and pests which could attack the crops. These eventually build up resistances of their own, requiring more potent chemicals to be used. This toxic cycle results in harmful substances building up in crops which can have a variety of detrimental effects on health.

It Undermines Genetic Diversity

Diversity is an essential aspect of life as we know it. By genetically engineering organisms, we attack and reduce that diversity. The long term effects of eliminating or reducing genetic diversity cannot be known, and that uncertainty could prove to be dangerous.

It can be seen that genetic engineering is still a new and controversial branch of biotechnology. As time passes, more may be known about its ramifications and accordingly, this list of pros and cons may change. Until that time, this is where genetic engineering currently stands.