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'Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the use of gene technology.'

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Introduction

'Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the use of gene technology.' The field of gene technology is an extremely vast and largely unknown one. Within it are many different sections of application and within these come many advantages and many disadvantages. It is a relatively new area of science and as such many people are unaware of the full potential of the applications of gene technology, or even the possible negative repercussions. This gives rise to questions such as, 'Is it right for us to play God?' One of the largest areas of application of gene technology is in medicine. The first practical use of genetic engineering was to use bacteria as 'factories' to make substances that are useful to humans. The prime example of this is insulin, where previously it had to be obtained from animals for those people who needed regular insulin injections. This process was more expensive, but it was also animal insulin, so there was a high risk of side effects. With gene technology, it is now possible to manipulate bacteria to produce vast quantities of human insulin at a cheaper cost with no side effects. Another practical use in medicine is to check unborn babies for possible genetic disorders. With gene technology it is possible to assess the likelihood of an unborn child being born with or developing a disease that would seriously affect their life. ...read more.

Middle

On a broader scale, genetically modified crops could be grown in areas where there is little arable land or in areas of drought, as genes allowing plants to do this would be introduced into desired plants that couldn't otherwise grow there. This could provide food in areas of starvation. However, there are many concerns over genetically modified crops. This point leads on to the disadvantages of gene technology, the major one being and the one which all others link to is that there is much we don't know about gene technology. Can we guarantee there will be no side affects in the short term and the long term, and is it right to change nature as some people believe naturally occurring incidents happen for a reason. Ethics and regulation are key issues concerning gene technology which need to be addressed. Firstly, the concerns over genetically modified crops, of which there are many. One which features prominently is the creation of 'superweeds'. It would be very difficult to guarantee that there would be no hybridisation across species e.g pollen from a GM crop spreading to non-GM crops which could easily result in the loss of biodiversity and the creation of a plant or weed which gained a major advantage over natural competitors due to extra genes being obtained that might make it immune to weed killers for example. Also, people have the right to know whether produce they are consuming has been genetically modified, yet often producers are unwilling to say so. ...read more.

Conclusion

There are many other examples of this and the reality is obvious, there would be no privacy for people and prejudice would become prominent even more so in day-to-day life. Another point is would you even want to know? There is a test for Huntingdon's chorea, a devastating, incurable mental disease, which affects people at about forty. If someone knows it occurred in their family would they really want to get a test, find it positive, and live with the knowledge that would you would only lead a normal life until the age of forty? This applies to many other illnesses as well. These three questions are but a few of many ethical concerns which come as a disadvantage to gene technology. Presently, there are many advantages of gene technology, which people know are safe and help millions. This is prominent in medicine. However, the reality is that there is so much unknown, so much potential for disaster and the simple fact that people cannot accept it as it goes against what they stand for. Any progress made therefore has to be made very slowly, but to many people it is worth the wait as there is so much potential. Personally I look forward to some of the prospects of gene technology, and appreciate how it helps society with the applications in use now. I think gene technology should be allowed to develop as long as the process is slow and controlled. The advantages are clear but people fear what they do not know, and unfortunately that is the main disadvantage of the majority of gene technology. ...read more.

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Here's what a teacher thought of this essay


This is a well-researched essay with a substantial list of references which examines the advantages and disadvantages of gene technology. The writer touches upon a number of contrasting applications of the technology and highlights valid controversies which plague the industry in the developed world.
The essay could, however, have been improved in the following ways:
1: a clear definition of exactly what is meant by gene technology;
2: an introductory paragraph outlining the structure of the essay, i.e. the various categories of GT which were going to be covered;
3: an emphasis on scientific fact when assessing the advantages and disadvantages rather than an over-reliance on opinion or media hype;
4: a discussion of advantages and disadvantages of each application, rather than grouping all advantages together and then all disadvantages together. The ethics of each application are quite distinct from each other making it impossible to generalise across the whole technology.
Nonetheless, the writer has given the topic considerable thought and clearly holds strong opinions on the subject. The challenge is to remain impartial and give a balanced, informed account.

Marked by teacher Ross Robertson 01/03/2013

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