Genetic Engineering Pros and Cons

Share

Genetic engineering is the process of methodically altering the nature and structure of an organism’s genes using methods like molecular cloning and cell transformation. This process can result in a considerable transformation of an organism’s characteristics due to the manipulation of genetic material (DNA), which determines how every cell functions. While Genetic engineering can result in better traits in organisms, it can also lead to undesirable after-effects. Let us first understand how genetic engineering can benefit individuals.

Pros of genetic engineering:

  • Better varieties of crops

Scientists have genetically engineered crops like tomato, potato, rice, and soybean to new varieties with improved nutritional value and better yield. The genetically modified strains can grow on tough terrains, making the area suitable for cultivation. Engineered seeds can survive in harsh climatic conditions and are resistant to pests. Biotechnology, the science of producing genetically engineered foods, can slow down spoilage of perishable foods, resulting in the greater shelf life of fruits and vegetables.

  • Create new substances

Genetic engineering can be applied to create totally new substances and food nutrients. The genetic modification can increase medicinal value of foods, thereby turning them into edible vaccines.

  • Modification of human genes

Genetic engineering can be used to modify genotypes of humans before birth. This process can manipulate specific traits in a person, such as enhancing positive traits like boosting longevity and suppressing negative traits like genetic disorders. The discovery of genes associated with exceptional qualities in humans has allowed genetic engineers to artificially introduce genotypes to modify the DNA of human beings and desirable functional and structural changes in them.

  • Fighting diseases

Some of the deadliest diseases in the world have resisted destruction till date. However, genetic engineering could wipe out these diseases forever from the human race.  Genetic mutations are responsible for some dreaded diseases in humans. The sufferance can end with active intervention and genetically engineering, which can protect the next generation from these problems. Scientists are looking for a permanent cure for terrible diseases with the help of genetic engineering.

  • Tackling diseases in unborn children

Advanced medical technology has enabled doctors to detect certain problems in unborn children. Prenatal examinations can detect whether the child will suffer from genetic diseases such as Down’s syndrome or sickle cell anaemia. If these issues are detected, doctors can use genetic engineering to cure diseases in children even before they are born. The infants would be born healthy with no diseases present at birth.

Genetic engineering can help people who are at risk of passing on awfully degenerative illnesses to their offspring. If people suffering from genetic disorders give birth, there are chances that the children will inherit the disease. Genetic engineering can ensure that the children born to these individuals live healthy and long lives and do not carry the disease to next generations.

  • Enhanced longevity

Medical science had enhanced the lifespan of human beings but, there are certain illnesses that can appear later in life and kill individuals earlier than their expected lifetime. Genetic engineering can reverse body’s natural deterioration on a cellular level, improving the lifespan as well as the quality of life afterward. In addition, it could help individuals become accustomed to the growing inconvenience, like global warming. Thanks to genetic engineering, people can adapt to live in places that will be a lot colder or hotter in coming time.

Apart from its multiple benefits, genetic engineering has exposed human race to several disadvantages by allowing scientists to tread into territories that were better left untouched. Let us have a look at those disadvantages.

Cons of Genetic Engineering:

  • Ethical and religious objections

When genetic engineering was introduced, many religions believed that the genetic engineers were trying to play god and forbade it to be used on their children. There are several ethical arguments that believe that the diseases exist for a reason. If humans fight against them and artificially extend their lifespan, the planet will become overpopulated and result in problems that cannot possibly be predicted.

  • Genetic anomalies

It is known that genetic engineering can bring about changes at the cellular level but, what about the safety of these changes and repercussions of the slightest changes. Scientists are yet to fully understand the working of the human body and they cannot predict what would be the result of their actions. What will happen if erasing one disease introduces another brand new and more dangerous disease? If scientists genetically modify unborn babies, it could result in complications like stillbirth, premature birth or miscarriage.

  • Genetic diversity hampered

Diversity is an important part of evolution that results in the continuation of fitter and better species. Genetically modifying species can have a negative impact on genetic diversity, just like cloning. Gene therapy is not an affordable process and makes it impossible for the common man to benefit from it. Additionally, some traits responsible for introducing diversity in species may eventually die out because of genetic engineering.

  • Long-term use of genetic engineering

An important thing to consider is the scope of genetic engineering. The technique has been in use for years but, the question is how far can it go? While many scientists have been diligently using the process to eliminate worst illnesses, genetic engineering has remained at the centre of controversy for altering the DNA of living organisms. It has worked wonders for many but will it pan out real safe in the long run is something that remains to be seen.

  • Hamper dietary value

Genetically engineering foods result from the contamination of genetic makeup of crops. The engineered crops supersede natural weeds but they might prove to be dangerous for natural vegetation. Unwanted genetic modifications can cause allergies in crops and hamper their dietary value while improving their appearance and taste.

  • Entry of pathogens

Genetic engineering in crops is performed through horizontal gene transfer. While this process can boost disease-fighting capability of plants, it can produce new pathogens. The disease-resistant genes can get transferred to dangerous pathogens and make them stronger.

This shows that genetic engineering has its own set of benefits and disadvantages. It is up to the scientists using this technique to apply it after weighing it’s the pros and cons.