‘Genetic Engineering has the capability to change everything.’
Genetic engineering is when the genetic code of an organism is altered to produce a desired trait.In other words, it is a manipulation of the code of life.The organisms with the altered gene sequences are now referred to as Genetically modified organisms or GMO’s for short.The DNA which is inserted can come from varied species or can be artificially made. Genetic engineering is probably the most powerful tool humans have acquired through endless research and advancements in technology. It has high potential benefits as it can be a mean for ending diseases, prolonging human life and creating modified human beings.Genetic engineering has had phenomenal results in the fields of medicine, agriculture, research and development and cloning.
Genetic engineering is a controversial issue today as it is argued by many that is against bioethics, natural law and can have a damaging effect on biodiversity.
Biodiversity is defined as the degree of variation of life forms in an ecosystem.This includes diversity in the variation of ecosystems and habitats, they abundance and number of species in an ecosystem and the genetic variation within each species.
We live in a time of expansive biodiversity and hence the introduction of the newly discovered tool of genetic engineering poses threats on the extinction of species and can harm biodiversity through extensive cross-breeding of species, especially in agricultural aspects. Gene technology may have consequences that we can not foresee.These technologies raise social, economic, and ethical issues, that we must confront.Thus, the question persists whether the potential benefits of genetic engineering will outweigh its flaws.
First, we will consider the perspective-“The advantages of genetic engineering.”
Genetic engineering can be used to tackle possibly the single biggest killer in human history- mosquitoes.For over 90-100 million years these vectors of diseases have bedevilled human beings.Today, the latest plague they carry is the Zika virus,
which has caused outbreaks and epidemics and has been associated with severe clinical manifestations and congenital malformations.Through recent developments in the process of gene sequencing it is now possible to alter the genes of mosquitoes and make them immune to the diseases that they would previously carry as vectors. A source which identifies with this perspective is “Genetically modified mosquitoes:Have scientists finally found a way to eradicate dengue?” by Jason Lai from the National University of Singapore.This article is a valid source as the author is a molecular biologist and has a background in statistics, thus making valid points regarding scientific techniques and statistical analysis.
Lai’s main arguments revolve around the aedes aegypti mosquito which spreads a variety of diseases like dengue fever, chikungunya, zika fever and yellow fever viruses which can fatal effects.The main issue being discussed is the spread of these diseases and how a genetically varied species of aedes mosquitoes can stop the transmission of these diseases.The writer feels that these mosquitoes are strictly innocent as they are only carriers of the disease.He feels that instead of working on clinical trials of dengue vaccines it is better to eradicate mosquitoes.
Lai’s article has both strengths and weaknesses.The main area of focus is on the Dengue virus.He clearly states his opinion regarding the strategy of the mass production of a genetically modified male OX513A mosquito and releasing them in the wild to inseminate females to produce offsprings programmed to die.The writer questions the uncertainty of the consequences of releasing these mosquitoes and provides sufficient evidence regarding the drug tetracycline and how it may have damaging effects.The writer uses sufficient evidence from Malaysia, the Cayman Islands and Australia for a more accurate statistical analysis regarding modified mosquitoes. “Mating efficiency was not matched to larvae production” was a statement made regarding the inefficiency of the OX513A mosquitoes.
One of his strengths was a logical discussion regarding an alternative way to create modified mosquitoes using a stain of the Wolbachia bacterium and introducing it to the aedes aegypti. The writer indicates that these mosquitoes were capable of establishing a stable population and had a significantly reduced capability of transmitting dengue to humans.Lastly, the writer wants further communication to be made with the public, scientists and government regarding the eradication of the aedes mosquito.
The writer fails to describe the possible failures regarding the production of these modified mosquitoes.Often through recombinant genes and DNA only a small number of the produced population would exhibit the dominant gene which is resistant to the dengue virus.The writer doesn’t pursue the other diseases these mosquitoes carry and how scientists can eradicate them. Another source of weakness is regarding the degree of further research that is required for us to eradicate these fatal diseases.The writer concludes his article in an abrupt way as he asks the question as to whether the OX513A mosquito is the answer to the eradication of aedes aegypti.
Secondly, we consider a recently discovered revolutionary tool knows as Crispr which has the capacity to change any DNA sequence of any living organism in a faster and more precise manner. Crispr stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats.The Crispr system consists of two main molecules which are: an enzyme Cas9 and a piece of RNA. Cas9 has the capability to alter strands of DNA at a specified location in the genome so that DNA can be added or removed.RNA has the function of guiding the Cas9 to the right part of the genome sequence. Thus,Scientists can use the DNA repair function to introduce desired changes to genes in an organism of interest.CRISPR could potentially be the end of all genetic diseases like colour blindness and Huntington’s disease one day. Crispr can potentially be used to defeat cancer through editing immune cells in the body and also has the capability to tackle retroviruses like HIV and Herpes.These genetic technologies are already being used to deal with genetic disorders in animals and will be used to treat human diseases in the near future.Clinical trials using Crispr-Cas9 for cancer therapies has been approved in China and the United States.
A source which identifies with indicating the true benefits and applications of Crispr is