Genetic engineering is defined as the technology whereby the genes of an organism are manipulated directly. The structure and the characteristics of a cell are altered directly through the use of transformation and molecular cloning techniques. The term genetic engineering originated from Dragon's Island, a science fiction novel written by Jack Williamson and published in 1951. Scientists have advanced in the field of genetic engineering. After the successful cloning of animals, they are now developing human stem cells. The cloning of animals is done purposely for modifying and improving the usefulness of the animals to human beings. But the controversy arises in that there is no significant increase in the overall production quotient of the cloned animals. The genetically engineered animals are basically used as models of human disease. When done in plants, it can increase the overall crop production by improving disease resistance and increasing the growth rates. Therefore by using of only a few resources e.g. fertilizers and pesticides, this technology can lead to an increase in the food production (Brunner, 525-6). It can also be use to increase the population of endangered species and enable them to adapt well to their habitat. Also the vulnerability of these animals to common diseases and pathogens is reduced.
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Even after these benefits, Genetic engineering has been a topic of much controversy in the world. The dispute revolves around church leaders, biotechnology companies, government, the public and scientists with each having different stand points. But the greatest concern that has sparked this debate is the safety concern of foods that have been genetically modified. Scientists have not come to fully understand genetic engineering field to perform DNA transformation. Their experiments on the delicate but powerful forces of nature may lead to creations of mutations. The repercussions that are associated with this technology are also not well known.
Tight restrictions and bans should be placed on this technology because of the safety concern that is involved. There has not been enough research on the effects of these foods on the health of human beings. The research that is available so far shows that the implication on health depends on the type of modification made (Key, 290-8). Though the foods produced so far shows no adverse health effects, there are some that have been known to spread allergic reactions (Leary, 7). Therefore tight restrictions should be imposed on this technology. This is because technology is improving and more changes are being done. Also wed have no evidence of the effects continual use of the products for a long period of time. The technology is young and new. Therefore we do not know the future effects of eating genetically modified foods. Though the foods may appear to be proven safe to eat for now, the advocates of the same technology do not have the evidence of effects or stability of the same foods to human health in the next decades. If anything, the genetically modified foods should be banned as there is no available data to support their future stability and safety in human health up until that time when more vigorous scientific research is done and the evidence that they are stable and safe for human consumption is presented. Because there has not been a long time testing that has been carried out, there is no evidence that these foods are safe for human consumption. This technology can also lead to development of unknown allergens in foods which may cause severe allergies (Nordlee, 726)
The organisms that are modified genetically have the ability to interbreed with the natural organisms and spread in our natural environment. This leads to contamination of the environment with genetically modified elements. Hence there is loss of biodiversity and this will impact negatively on future generations of plants, animals and human beings. Once this happens, there will be a genetic pollution of our natural environment (Emberlain, et al, 36). Therefore there is need to ban genetic engineering technology because once released into the environment, the genetically modified organisms cannot be recalled. The negative effects of genetic engineering cannot be compared to the effects of chemical or nuclear contaminations. The contamination of the non genetic environment will be uncontrollable once this technology is allowed to develop and proceed. To protect our biological diversity, tight restriction must be enforced in this technology. It should only be practiced in a smaller degree in the field of medicine and not otherwise. If it cannot be restricted to these areas, then it should be banned. Because the environmental impact and the effects on the health of human beings is unknown, the GMOs should neither be released into our environment nor be fed to human beings (Greenpeace.org). The introduction of the alien genes into our environment could lead to contamination of the natural genes which mazy lead to extinction of the existing genes and/ or emergence of other harmful species. The mutations caused from the genetic engineering can great toxins in the genetically modified foods which may be harmful to human health (Inose, 141)
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The Genetically engineered foods which had been introduced with an aim of increasing food production have not performed as expected. Instead they have brought forth other problems. Those modified to resist pests and insects have imbalanced the ecology of these insects and pests (Metz, 442-450). As a result other pests and insects emerge and these may require use of heavier, more powerful and more expensive insecticides and pesticides. The cycle may repeat itself until there are no Insects in our ecosystems. The use of genetically modified herbicides has led to the growth of weeds that are resistant to the same. The use of herbicide resistant genetically engineered crops leads to the overall decrease of herbs in the environment. This may impact negatively on the herbivores wildlife which depends on these weeds for survivor. When the number of herbivores decreases it can lead to the decrease in the numbers of carnivores and this affects the wildlife at large. Also the genetically modified seeds are similar in their structure and compositions. Thus when attacked by a disease or a pest, all the seeds may be attacked and this can result in massive crop failure (Robinson, 56).
From a theological point of, nature belongs to God who being its creator has the sole purpose of determining its course. God has given human beings domination of all His creation, to control, take care and develop nature for our benefits. He has given us technological know how to do this. But as stewards to His creation, we have limits to which we can use this technology. Therefore, whatever we do with this technology we are not only answerable to the future generations, but to God as well. Human beings are also part of the creation but are not creators (Page, 58). Though God has not categorically stated that Genetic Engineering should not be practiced, the limits to it are set by God's principles of creation. In this regard, all technology is good as long as it is not a means to an end. When genetic engineering reaches a point where by it produces a perfect animal or plant, then God's original creation will become less desirable. The perfect animal or plant species genetically engineered will be in high demand and high production hence the less desired original creations will become extinct. A good example of this is the selective breeding of dogs whereby only those dogs with desirable traits are chosen while those with undesirable traits are almost becoming extinct. The overall pool of natural genes available in the world may eventually be reduced. In essence man has no right to control nature. Thus, genetic engineering technology should be banned on moral grounds.
The patenting of genetically altered genes is another threat that genetically engineering has posed. Large corporations have monopolized the supply of genetically modified seeds and they are reaping maximum profits from these. What is worrying is whether once human genes have been genetically modified, will the trend still continue? Will a person with altered genes be patented by these corporations? Will he or she be required to pay loyalties to those corporations that hold the patent for the altered genes? If genetic engineering technology is not restricted or otherwise banned as a whole, future generations may be held at a ransom by large corporations.