genetic engineering techniques should not be used to custom tailor children. It is morally wrong because it overrides natural selection. Humans should not have the right to play God. It is also unfair for those who are born naturally. Instead of allowing nature to decide, humans might choose what their descendants will be like. Nature alone should be the judge of one’s skin color and other features.
Genetic engineering should only be used for medical purposes. Otherwise, it is unfair to those who do not have access to these procedures, while genetically designed people will have an advantage over those who relied solely on nature. Thus, certain forms of genetic engineering should not be permitted. Genetic engineering is a broad term referring to the alteration of an organism’s genes in order to remove unwanted characteristics of the organism or to add desirable characteristics (Levine).
Genetic engineering has been applied to plants and animals for greater and more efficient food production ever since the agricultural revolution. It is also used on humans in the medical industry.
Genetic engineering techniques are used to identify and treat certain diseases as well as aid doctors in creating custom made drugs for specific patients (Gorman 81).
While the applications of genetic engineering on humans is currently limited, genetic engineering has the potential to eventually be able to treat virtually every disease. There are several genetic engineering techniques currently used on humans. One is in vito fertilization, or IVF. In IVF, a female’s eggs are fertilized outside of the body, after the eggs are extracted, they are placed in a fluid similar to that found inside the woman’s body. Then, a sample of semen is washed and incubated.
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The semen is then placed into the fluid with the eggs and left alone for approximately 18 hours. The eggs are then removed and placed into a special medium that promotes growth. Forty hours later, if the eggs have been properly fertilized and developed, the embryos are transferred to the mother’s uterus. Usually multiple eggs are inserted to increase the likelihood of pregnancy. If, however, more than four embryos develop, the donor is given the option of cry-preserving the embryos left over. This lowers the risk of multiple pregnancies (twins, triplets etc.
) After a single IVF cycle, the probability of pregnancy is about twenty percent greater. IVF, has been used on animals by farmers for a long time to yield better products. It was used successfully on humans for the first time in 1978. Another genetic engineering technique used on humans is called gene therapy. gene therapy is based on recombinant DNA (acid), also known as gene splicing. In this technique, the genes of one organism are introduced to another organism.
This alters the genetic structure of the organism, thus altering its traits. These changes, however, will not be passed on to future generations because the sperm or eggs of the organism are not affected (Levine).
Gene therapy is currently used to correct genetic diseases. These diseases are caused either by inherited defective genes or by mis coded genes, which are generally created during cell growth and division (Blaese).
Gene therapy works by inserting good genes into the cells of people with diseases. These new genes provide new instructions to the cells.
These new instructions usually counter the effects of the disease, thus curing the patient. To insert the gene into the cells of patients, scientists usually use viruses. Because of their infectious nature, viruses easily embed themselves into the host patients cells. To do this, scientists use recombinant DNA techniques.
... 3000 diseases have been determined as genetic or hereditary (Access Excellence). With the perfection of gene therapy thousands of lives could be spared. Gene therapy may ... Gene therapy is the use of genes and the techniques of genetic engineering in the treatment of a genetic disorder or chronic disease. Most of the techniques ...
They strip a virus of its genetic coding and insert the genes that will go into the cell. The virus is now a carrier, for the genes and the genes can now be easily inserted into the cells of the patient (Jaroff 68).
Scientists, however, have encountered several problems when using viral carriers. For one, the carriers are usually recognized by the immune system of the body and are treated as foreign invaders.
This usually causes inflammation and swelling (Jaroff 68).
During a gene therapy trial for the genetic disease cystic fibrosis, the inflammation caused by the viral vector was so bad that the FDA ordered that no further efforts be made (Jaroff 68).
Because the vectors are treated as enemies by the body, they may be destroyed completely before they have the chance to transport the genes. Sometimes, the genes just failed to activate upon insertion into the cells and were thus unable to properly command the cells. Others just stopped working after a while. As a result of the shortcomings of using viral carriers, many gene therapy techniques have not been certified by the FDA.
Due to the human body’s reaction to viral carriers, gene therapy procedures failed the FDA’s first testing phase (Phase I), in which the safety of the therapy is tested on a few patients. Most of the procedures which were proven to be safe, were proven to be too ineffective in Phase II. So far, only one gene therapy procedure has made it to Phase III, in which the treatment is tested on a larger number of people. The treatment, however could not be passed due to bad side-effects (Jaroff 69) Despite all the research, gene therapy still has quite a way to go. “There is still no conclusive evidence that a gene therapy protocol has been successful in the treatment of a human disease” (Jaroff 73).
The main problem facing genetic researchers in the field of gene therapy is transporting the genes.
The viral vectors, which have been in use since 1990, are inadequate. Aside from the side effects, the viruses just do not have the capacity to carry the larger and more complex genes required for most procedures. Scientists are currently hard at work developing new and more effective viruses to transport genes. One virus, Ade no-associated Virus, is a benign virus that does not cause disease like any of the others. In addition to the AAV’s non-inflammatory nature, it is also efficient in delivering the genes. The AAV easily invades non-dividing cells, and has allowed the genes to express themselves for over two years (Jaroff 73).
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Currently, parents can use genetic testing techniques to determine their children’s gender before conception. Within a decade, it will probably be possible to screen for other traits as well. Hospitals will eventually use gene therapy and IVF as preventive medicine to ward off diseases that may plague the child after birth. Eventually, parents may be able to use the same technology to insert genes of their choosing into their children, thus selecting what their children’s physical appearance as well as personality will be like. Parents may be going to fertility clinics and picking from a list of options the way car buyers order air-conditioning and chrome-alloy wheels.
When the prospect of genetically engineering humans emerged, it brought with it many fears. In 1932, Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World depict ing a future in which the government controlled all births as well as the outcome of all children through genetic engineering techniques. In his story, all human eggs were fertilized at a central location in accordance to government standards. When the babies were born, they were assigned various roles in society. Every person had a specific role in society and was a member of a distinct class (Wright 67).
Ever since Huxley’s book was published, people have feared that the government would control eugenics for the sake of social efficiency. The current fear is almost the opposite. The potential of genetic engineering causes people to fear that, parents will soon have to choose their children’s traits, causing a social stratification worse than Huxley’s. Some people also worry that if eugenics were to be allowed, then more classes would be created and the distinctions between the classes would become clearer. Others worry about the possible dangers of trying to play God by molding youth to specifications. Do we really wish to replace the workings of chance with the self-interested workings of human want? Currently, however, the applications of genetic engineering that people fear are far-fetched.
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Right now, only gender and a certain few genetic diseases can be identified. When those applications do become feasible, they will eliminate inherited diseases and biological inheritance. Genetic engineering has already raised many controversial issues with doctors, ethicist’s, religious groups and politicians. Should parents screen for children who would be predestined to shortness, dullwittedness, attention deficit disorder or homosexuality? Will children born with such traits feel even more separated from society than they already are? Which genes should parents be allowed to manipulate? Which genetic enhancements should be used on babies that would normally be healthy (i.
e. HIV resistance or a high IQ)? People probably will not have any problems with eliminating psychological diseases that may haunt a child when he gets older, but should parents be allowed to make their children more attractive so as to prevent them from the possibility of being depressed? Should parents be allowed to alter the balance of nature? Should parents be allowed to design their own children to the detriment of natural selection? Are the risks of genetic manipulation worth taking? There are also questions about the future of genetic engineering. Will children who did not have the opportunity to be genetically engineered feel separated from society? Will genetic engineering create new classes, and if so, should it still be allowed? Will only the wealthy have access to genetic engineering procedures? What will happen to the belief that all men are created equal? The main question confronting researchers is that of where the line should be drawn. The problem is that they disagree on where that line should be drawn. They must decide which genetic treatments should be allowed and which should not.
Can we justify raising people’s IQ’s by saying we are preventing learning deficiencies? Parents should not be allowed to use genetic engineering techniques to custom tailor their children because it is immoral. It is not fair for parents to decide for their unborn children, what their traits will be like. Many people agree that once genetic engineering techniques are perfected, they should only be used for medical purposes. Parents should not have the option of choosing their children’s gender. If this is allowed, it could further change the gender balance in areas that favor boys more than girls, such as India and China. It could even create problems in the United States where boys are preferably born first.
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It would make it even more difficult to eliminate gender stereotypes. Despite regulation, some people will always be able to use genetic engineering techniques to perfect their children. In the United States (where there is no national health service), there will always be people willing to pay companies to get the children they want. If a certain nation bans certain genetic engineering techniques that would allow parents to choose the traits of their child, the parents will still be able to travel to other nations where there is no ban to have their child engineered. Even with regulation, genetic tailoring will seep into practice. Most genetic tailoring will start out as medical procedures that could also be used to enhance people.
Thus the procedure would be passed by the medical boards even though it would be used by many for cosmetic purposes. Private fertility clinics such as the Genetics and IVF Institute, in the United States, are the most advanced in the world. Because they are privately owned, they are not subject to many federal regulations. They will most likely lead the future of genetic engineering and will control which procedures are available. Genetic enhancement will probably slip into practice without official sanction. If people are allowed to use genetic engineering techniques to design their babies, social stratification could emerge more fully.
Class distinctions will become clearer. Genetically tailoring children would be unfair for those who are not tailored. People who were not genetically tailored will feel left out. Society could be split into various groups. Despite any regulation, genetic engineering techniques will only be available to the upper class parents who can afford it. This is very unfair to those who cannot afford it.
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Eventually, biological differences between those who have been engineered and those who have not will be very clear. Tolerance for children who are different because they were not engineered will drop and parents will be pressured to engineer their babies to conform to what is considered to be desirable in children. If parents do conform, then the genetically engineered children will all be similar and there will be no diversity. Despite fears of the government controlling the outcome of future generations as depicted in Brave New World, the only way to avoid the social stratification that would occur if parents had full control over their children would be through government intervention.
The most realistic way to avoid biological stratification would be for the government to ensure that both the poor and the rich have the same opportunities in choosing the outcome of their children. Through this and by deciding where to draw the line on genetic enhancement procedures the government will make matters fair for all people. BIBLIOGRAPHY “DNA at the Center of Debate.” EBSCO 10, Oct. 1997. Online. (13 Jan.
1999) Blaese, Michael R. “Gene Therapy.” Encarta (R) Online Deluxe 1998. Online (21 Jan. 1999) Fox, Micheal. Beyond Evolution: The Genetically Altered Future of Plants, Animals, the Earth and Humans. New York: The Lyons Press.
Jaroff, Leon. “Fixing the Genes.” Time 11 Jan. 2002: pp. 68-73 Levine, Louis.
“Genetic Engineering.” Encarta (R) Online Deluxe 2001. Wright, Robert “Who Gets the Good Genes?” Time 11 Jan. 1999: p. 67.