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Ethics in the world of Genetic Engineering

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Introduction

Ethics in the world of Genetic Engineering To understand the ethical implications of genetic engineering, we must first understand what genetic engineering is. Genes are units that code for specific characteristics. Such characteristics are hair and eye colour and we inherit these from our parents. It is chromosomes in the cell nuclei than enable your body to inherit features or, more specifically, it is the DNA that makes up the chromosomes that forms a unique genetic code for every human being (apart from identical twins). It is estimated that the human body has around 50,000 to 100,000 different genes contained inside, some of which have been linked to certain diseases. Scientists claim to have identified 4,000 conditions that are linked to just one fault or defect in a persons genetic makeup, which is where genetic engineering comes in. At present a project is taking place to identify the function of every gene in the human body. 'The Human Genome Project' aims to uncover the cause for many diseases and find a cure for them. One such way, is genetic engineering. Genetic engineering, as a cure for disease, is the removal of a defective gene sequence and the remodelling of it. But this isn't the only definition given for genetic engineering. Compassion in World Farming describes it as 'the taking of genes from one species of plant or animal and inserting them into a completely different species'. It is obvious, therefore, that genetic engineering is used for different things, in different situations. In this essay I will look at some of the varying uses genetic engineering has in today's world and the ethical implications of such uses. ...read more.

Middle

The BMA have also said people have been mislead about the power to screen for later abnormalities. It says 'The number of abnormalities which can be detected in this way is limited and few of the tests are conclusive'. The problem many people have with genetic engineering is the risk of error that is involved. Screening is complex and it is difficult to be precise every time. Faulty diagnosis could put an end to job prospects or insurance benefits, not to mention the psychological problems arising from finding out you have the potential to contract a fatal disease. Another very complicated process is the replacing of the defected gene and there is no guaranteed success. The organisation Animal Aid also recognises the problem of the mass production of biological substances such as insulin. It believes it could lead to 'over-prescribing', especially with children and growth hormone. Also, British physicist Joseph Rotblat says genetic engineering could give the opportunity for the development of new weapons of mass destruction. Adding to these concerns is the topical area of animal cruelty. The HMSO released statistics on animal testing in 1994 in the Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals, Great Britain paper. It says over 202,311 experiments were performed on animals with harmful genetic consequences. The main worry is that scientists simply have no real idea of what the realest of their 'genetic tinkering' will be and that most of the animal suffering has not been charted. Horrific abnormalities like loss of limbs and facial clefts have been known, as well as calves growing too quickly in the womb to be born naturally and pigs born with a bovine growth hormone being blind, suffering from arthritis, without the ability to reproduce. ...read more.

Conclusion

Organisations are concerned about the spread of GM genes into other gene pools. The Green Alliance says 'Such spread could mean 'genetic contamination' of the gene plants of some native plants and animals- in other words, naturally occurring genes could be replaced by introduced ones, leading to a reduction in biological diversity.... the potential of release is enormous. Therefore rare events will occur.' They are also worried about the underhand way some governments are dealing with GM. In 1996, in the US, GMO varieties of maize and Soya were grown with conventional breeds, meaning people were unwillingly eating GM crops without even knowing. Despite scientists claiming there is still a huge market for GM produce, recent public opinion is shifting towards organic produce, especially since the blunders surrounding the BSE crisis. Many GMO producers are now concerned that the public may begin to boycott their products if further action is not taken to reassure them about GMO. Sources of Information Articles Man or Mouse? The Guardian March 1997 The genetics policy, The Daily Mail February 1997 Hello Dolly, Telegraph Group Limited 1997 Why the gene green grass of home stay eternally emerald, The Daily Mail 1997 Genetic clues to a healthier future, Telegraph Group Limited 1996 Public oppose insurers' genetic test policy, The Genetics Forum April 1997 Will the gene genies change the way you farm? NFU Magazine Autumn 1997 Organisation Information Genetic Engineering, CIWF The BMA's views on genetic testing, BMA Food and biotechnology, Foodfuture 1997 Ethical, safety and other questions Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council Environmental groups are concerned, The Green Alliance Why be concerned? The Green Alliance January 1997 Genetics, Animal Aid Websites OneWorld.net Text Books Biology a functional approach, MBV Roberts ...read more.

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