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Genetic Modification, should we be scared?

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Introduction

Michael Whittet 7/3/2012 Genetic Engineering: Should We Be Scared? June, 2010. The biggest scandal to hit European agriculture since the animal rights movement uncovered the shocking mistreatment of animals on some farms occurs. Millions of Euros worth of crops are discarded, but why? A large seed supplier mistakenly issues banned GM maize that is sown over 3000 hectares of land. The EU is forced to undertake a review into their stance on GM crops, though any decision would come too late to save the innocent farmers whose crops are lost that year. The question is then raised: Why were they banned in the first place? What are the consequences possible from the use of GM crops, the consequences of genetically modified animals and even more, of genetic modification of ourselves? Let?s take a step back. Genetic Engineering can be defined as alteration of the DNA of a cell for purposes of research, as a means of manufacturing animal proteins, correcting genetic defects, or making improvements to plants and animals bred by man. Despite the controversy, It seems clear to me that this technology is, at root, seeking to benefit us all in a broad variety of aspects, but what I want to know is: do the problems solved outweigh the problems created as a result? ...read more.

Middle

Last year trials began on mosquitos that have immune systems that block the malaria virus from being carried. Needless to say this could be a great tool in malaria prevention. A huge number of humans across the planet exist with rice as their main food, frequently their only source of nutrition. However it is missing certain pigments that we all need to consume to produce vitamin A. As a result a huge swathe of humanity suffers from vitamin A deficiency, which can directly cause blindness and exacerbates all sorts of infections including HIV. Vitamin A deficiency syndrome is simple enough to treat but still accounts for one quarter of global malnutrition-related deaths. Enter ?Golden Rice?, the genetically modified rice that produces the pigments necessary to provide vitamin A. It?s called ?Golden? because the pigment turns the plant a yellowy-brown. Quite an elegant solution to a child death problem that would otherwise rely on copious economic and charitable activity I think, as malnutrition is often caused not by a complete lack of food but a lack of the right types of food. But before we get carried away, there are a couple ugly considerations that need to be addressed. ...read more.

Conclusion

Should we allow treatment for red-green colour blindness? It would certainly help sufferers to operate in society that little bit more easily. So why not try to better ourselves as much as possible? We could remove the gene that restricts brain growth, or muscle production and save our society thousands of years in painstaking evolution. I think that to do so would be wrong. It is a luxury which is so great that perhaps we, as a society, should show restraint in this indulgence as its potency is sufficient in this specific respect to change us beyond all previous recognition. It seems clear to me, then, that though the dexterity of this new technology is hitherto unmatched, it is currently a force for good. The medical benefits for the treatment in serious diseases, unrivalled since a Hungarian physician, Ignaz Semmelweis, noticed that the washing of hands reduces infections though being unable to explain why precisely, is so useful that to ignore this would be a step backwards. The advantages to the poor of improved crops are also clearly definable and elegantly effective. However, I am reminded of Pandora?s Box: as we open the pantheon of genetics more and more we slowly expose ourselves eventually to a critical mass of morally objectionable choices, which, without careful moderation, could force us to redefine what our current humanity means to us. ...read more.

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