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Introduction: What Is Genetic Engineering?
Genetic engineering refers to a group of techniques or technologies utilized to alter the original genetic makeup of cells. Scientists use these techniques to move genes to cross species boundaries and create new and novel organisms.The techniques use very advanced manipulations of DNA as well as other biologically vital chemicals, and is being used to produce genetically modified organisms (GMOs) which include plants as well as animals.
Genetic engineering is used to produce vaccines, many immune-therapeutic drugs and other useful things like synthetic human insulin. At present, this technology has proven to be very advantageous as it is being applied to plants to create genetically modified foods which not only possess improved resistance to infections and high nutritional values but may also help to reduce the scarcity of food in the world.
The new therapies and vaccines being produced for diseases, the potential to find effective therapies for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and in regenerative medicine offer vast advantages. In the race to take advantage of these new technologies, let us not forget the list of disadvantages of genetic engineering that are also present.
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Disadvantages Of Genetic Engineering
1) Genetic engineering is meant to make food crops more resistant to disease, but the mere act of modification of the naturally selected food crops may actually disturb the delicate balance of biodiversity which exists in nature
.2) The production of GMOs has negative impacts on the natural ecosystem which are not apparent now but will be apparent in the future. For example, genetic changes in a particular plant or animal might render it harmful to another organism higher up in the food chain and ultimately this effect may build up to destroy the entire food chain in which that plant plays a role.
3) GMOs have been known to retain some of the genetically modified DNA in the final product made for human consumption. Such remnants of genetic material are harful to human health and can cause production of previously unknown allergens.
4) Genetically modified plants and animals have the potential to replace traditional farming or say poultry and meat-producing practices. This will result in destruction of economies based on these products.
5) In the context of applications of genetic engineering in human life, misuse of this technology in the production of biological warfare or weapons is a very major disadvantage.
6) Genetic engineering is being used to create human organs but in the long run if it can create genetically modified, perfect human specimens who are better than the creators than this may be disastrous.
7) Nature selection in man and the resulting diversity of the human genetic pool is essential for the survival of the species. Genetic engineering will interfere with this process too causing unknown complications.
8) Last but not the least in this long list of disadvantages of genetic engineering are the ethical and moral objections which religion has to these techniques. For example, the use of stem cells obtained from unborn human fetuses created and destroyed for this very purpose is unethical in the eyes of Catholics.
It is obvious from the given list of disadvantages of genetic engineering above that there is need to proceed with caution in use and the absolute necessity of creating as well as enforcing ethical legislation to prevent misuse also.
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Burke, D. Why all the fuss about genetically modified food? Much depends on who benefits. BMJ 1998; 316: 1845-6.
Hays, John P. 2001. Biodiversity Implications of Transgenic Plantations. In Tree Bio-technology in the New Millennium: Proceedings of the International Symposium onEcological and Societal Aspects of Transgenic Forest Plantations, edited by S.H. Straussand H.D. Bradshaw. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University, 168-175. Retrieved on 21st May, 2011from: http://www.fsl.orst.edu/tgerc/iufro200I/syniposia.htmOld, R. W., and S. B. Primrose. 1985. Principles of gene manipulation. An introduction to genetic engineering, 3rd ed. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford, United Kingdom.Reiss, M. J. and Straughan, R. ‘Improving Nature? The Science and Ethics of Genetic Engineering’, CambridgeUniversity Press, Cambridge (2002).