Sunday, October 25, 2009

What are the positive and negative sides of genetic engineering?

What do you think?
Genetic engineering consists of taking genes from one organism and transplanting them into an unrelated species. This is frequently done by the use of a virus, which inserts the genes into the target organism. It is used in the US to impart resistance to food crops. The crops then aquire an immunity to the insects which would ordinarily eat them. This technique can be used with animals as well, and an aquarium fish known as the zebra danio had the genes of a marine invertebrate added to its DNA. The result was a fluorescent orange fish which glowed brightly under UV lights, just as the marine species had. One potential risk of this technology is the creation of deadly virus strains, either accidently or deliberatly. The AIDS virus appears to be a monkey disease which mutated and got passed to chimpansees, which frequently eat monkeys. Humans eat chimpansees, and the mutated virus was able to live in humans too. The difference was that it does not kill chimpansees, but is eventually lethal to humans. At present, our knowledge of DNA only allows us to make crude modifications to genes. Things will change radically as our understanding of chromosomes increases to the point where sophisticated engineering is possible. This would be a science-fiction world where pork chops would grow on trees. The disturbing aspect of this scenario is when humans turn this technology upon themselves to create aliean looking races far stranger than are currently portrayed in "star wars" or "star trek". Genetic engineering would enable "humans" to live permenantly in outer space without gravity and an absolute minimum of food. Perhaps becomming photosynthetic like plants would solve this problem. Maybe all those alieans supposedly visiting Earth are just our future descendants going back in time to see what their "dinosaur" ancestors were like. We have met the alieans and they are us.
I don't actually see any positive sides
Genetic engineering is a vast field of science with several disciplines. In general I would say in the lab-good, in the world-bad.Genetic engineering in the lab can produce results which improve our understanding of the working of organisms including humans, animals, plants and insects. In the same lab, cheaper drugs are developed which are comprised of bacteria or mold with their genetic sequences altered to contain pharmaceutical compounds.Genetic engineering in the real world is much more problematic. A GM plant, animal or human can and will alter and affect the natural balance if released into nature and they contaminate the sustainability of the natural organisms from which they are derived.A very basic form of genetic engineering is eugenics or selective breeding. Since all the characteristics are naturally introduced by their own populations they are generally but not always sustainable.

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