Is Genetical Engineering Ethical?Genetic Engineering: ethical or not ethical? That is the question. Genetic engineering has become very popular among many young adults, who might be looking to become parents, over the past few years. This is a well known process that modifies or changes certain genes to create the “designer babies” (as many people are calling them) that these young parents are wanting. Parents now have the option to choose an eye color and specific personality traits; this choice that people make is no longer just for changing potentially harmful traits, it is to create the perfect baby.

What is genetic engineering? Well, the dictionary definition is the deliberate modification of the characteristics of an organism by manipulating its genetic material. This scope of practice manipulates genes in plants, animals, and now humans. We are no longer limited in our possibilities of neon green animals or rainbow colored plants, but why would we want to do this to our children? Research now is saying that we can genetically engineer our unborn babies to look and act exactly how we want them to. We can choose the sex, we can choose their athletic build, we can choose their eye color and how curly their hair will be. The possibilities are endless.

The process not only changes genes, but sometimes adds new ones that were not originally found in the baby before hand. These new genes are called transgenes and they undergo a major transformation during the engineering process. Basically in a nut shell, what happens is the medical scientist chooses the desired DNA strand or gene trait and takes it out of one organism, they then duplicate it and change things in it to make the specific gene that is wanted (gene cloning), this new strand/trait is then inserted into the organism receiving the gene. This is a practice that only very well trained and very skilled scientists are likely to enter.

Although traditional reproduction is not completely taken out of the equation, it is obviously not as effective as genetic engineering. Traditional breeding from sex or in vitro fertilization, we know, randomly takes half of the genes from mom and half of the genes from dad, some of these genes are likely to be undesirable and its obvious that parents would not want their children to have them; whereas, genetic engineering takes the genes that the parents know they want their children to have and place them straight into the egg. It is argued that since we, as humans, are already searching for a partner with desirable qualities to mate with and provide us with attractive and intelligent children for the future of our race, why should we limit our potential children to just those traits offered by our significant other when there are so many extraordinary advancements available to make them even more desirable than they could be without this technique?

Originally this process was used to remove genes that carry cancer and other harmful disease holding genes and replace them with more desirable, better traits that could sustain the life of these humans. Bacteria and other microorganisms that have been manipulated by genetic engineering are currently being used to produce many things that can help the human race including human insulin and human growth hormone, if we continue this practice the potential possibilities for improvement are far greater than we can currently imagine.

As with most procedures, there are complications. Scientists are now beginning to learn that they do not know nearly as much as they thought they did about DNA and how genes work. Scientists may never be able to master this procedure because humans are always changing and making babies and their genetic traits are extremely complex. In discussing how the new genes are inserted into the baby, Dr. George Wald, Nobel Laureate in medicine 1967 said, “the insertion disrupts the ordinary command code sequence in the DNA. This disruption may disturb the functioning of the cell in unpredictable and potentially hazardous ways. The insertion may make the chromosome unstable in an unpredictable way.” There is no way for the scientists to place the genes where they need to be, they just attach wherever they can. This creates problems and could cause a greater risk for the baby. Parents need to know and be well informed about all of the potential problems or instances that can occur before they decide that this is what they want.

There have been many reported incidences of genetically engineered plant species spreading specific genes uncontrollably, it has been said that this damage to the ecology and plant world is not able to be fixed or repaired. Also an uncontrollable spread of some genetically engineered genes from certain microorganisms has been reported and scientists are trying to deal with this.

I personally believe that this technique, whether some think it is ethical or not, is based mainly on personal opinion, as are many other debates in the medical world. If I chose to not partake in this practice, as a physician who only wants the best for my patients, who am I to say that I refuse to change a gene in your baby that could potentially kill them in the future if I don’t do something about it? This would be a difficult decision, but, if I had to choose, I know that I will always respect the parent’s wishes. So, yes, I believe that this practice is ethical to alter someone’s genes when circumstances call for it. But, do I believe that parents should abuse this technique just to choose an eye color? No, I do not.

The Center for Health Ethics – University of Missouri School of Medicine – Gene Therapy and Genetic Engineering.” N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2012.

“UNL’s AgBiosafety for Educators.” UNL’s AgBiosafety for Educators. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2012.

Genetic Engineering.”, n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2012.

Important Message to Students.” What Is Genetic Engineering? N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2012.

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