Genetic Engineering: Good or Bad? 5/11/2010 Chris Atkinson 4/5 GT Brenden Stock
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Introduction What do you think about when you hear the words genetic engineering? Cloning? Star Wars? Soybeans? All of the above? All of those answers are correct. Genetic engineering does not just mean cloning. It can also mean inserting genes into other genes that might be mutated. This has been explained through Dolly the Sheep (July 5, 1996- February 14, 2003). Dolly the Sheep was somewhat of a success and a failure. Therefore, the question is often asked: Is cloning (or genetic engineering) safe, and if so, how does it affect the life of living organisms? People take both sides of this conflict. I believe that genetic engineering is safe at the moment. This process can make plants safer and healthier to eat. Genetically engineered crops with beneficial genes cannot harm us. Some of the main things that we regularly eat each day are genetically engineered, and scientists know their limits with genetic engineering. What some people do not know is the steps to genetic engineering. The steps to genetic engineering depend on what the scientist is genetically engineering. Here are the steps to genetically engineer a single cell in a DNA:
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1. Take enzymes to put into a gene into a plasmid, and check that it is in the plasmid, which takes about one day 2. Electroporation (an electrical pulse to enable cells to gather DNA) usually takes a day. 3. Grow the cultures overnight. 4. Then isolate the individual clones of bacteria, grow them, and then see if they have the plasmid with the gene inside of them, which take about three to four days. 5. Finally, check to make sure that the correct gene was inserted, which takes about two to three days. It takes longer to genetically engineer a plant cell because it takes about a month to make sure that the right gene was inserted (Ritchie, 2010).
Is genetic engineering in plants safe?
Genetically engineered plants are not just safe to eat; they are beneficial. Most of the bread that we eat, and the corn syrup that sweetens our sodas, has most likely been genetically engineered. In addition, scientists at California State University are attempting to produce antibodies in tomatoes, which would be a
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first step towards making genetically engineered edible vaccines and medicines. The professor who is leading the study is trying to make ripening tomatoes to produce mixtures for laboratory or medical use. When a plant's genes are manipulated correctly, proteins that mimic parts of microbes and viruses that cause diseases such as AIDS and smallpox are produced. Once the proteins are eaten, they would help the human body develop immunity against the actual disease (Lau, 2002), Some questions that have been raised against the safety of plants are: What if the genes escape into the wild? What if animals eat the genetically engineered plants (the ones that contain drugs)? Dr. Rae Dee Ritchie, scientist, says:
The danger is that an individual or group with inhumane goals could use genetic engineering to create a harmful bacteria or virus that could make people or livestock sick or that could ruin a crop, such as wheat, that mankind depends on. Ritchie also says that, â€œgenetically engineered plants with beneficial genes cannot hurt humans. The process or technique is not harmful; it is what humans do with it,â€? (that could be harmful).
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Is genetic engineering in animals and humans safe and beneficial? An example of genetic engineering in animals is Dolly the sheep. Dolly the sheep was the first cloned animal. She was genetically engineered through her mother. Scientists took a gene from her mother, and placed it in a sperm of a different sheep. She was an exact copy of her mother. Ritchie says that although Dolly did not live as long as her mother did, the experiment on Dolly and her mother were successful. Scientist Ritchie says that Dolly proved that the concept of genetic engineering does work in animals. As stated earlier, genetic engineering is not just cloning, it can also mean giving a gene to a person with a mutated gene. This type of genetic engineering is safe right now in humans, although cloning individuals like Dolly the Sheep for humane purposes is unsafe. Although deaths cannot be prevented, the life of humans can be prolonged as scientist continue to develop and refine genetic engineering. When genetic engineering is used like gene therapy, the scientists are using a healthy gene to correct the problem in the mutated gene. With genetic engineering, diseases can become less serious and critical. This will also make the number of diseases decrease. There have been some attempts to use this process in humans to treat conditions such as cardiac disease, but all of the former
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attempts have been unsuccessful. Ritchie also states that: If our current safety nets are used, such as human committees at universities, and we follow Federal guidelines the current level of genetic engineering is safe. Although genetic engineering can be safe and have many benefits, there are still drawbacks. Some people might think that because the cloning part of genetic engineering in plants is safe, that makes it safe to genetically engineer (clone) animals and humans. This is not true. With our current technology, it is not safe because there are too many risks that cannot be accounted for. In addition, there are little to no benefits with cloning in humans and it is just like the issue of gun control. There are laws that have to be followed to own a personal gun, and yet people still get them illegally. Same with genetic engineering. A group of inhumane humans could think that by using genetic engineering, they could take over the world by genetically modifying their bodies. Secondly, some people believe that genetic engineering is like doing heart surgery with a shovel (Mothers for Natural Law Organization , 2001). This means that the process can take a long time. The process to genetically engineer a single cell might take a month for an animal. For a plant, it normally takes from 2-3
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weeks (Ritchie). Although there are drawbacks to genetic engineering, over time these problems should be resolved.
â€œCloneâ€?-clusion As I have stated that, there are both benefits and disadvantages to genetic engineering. I think that scientists have come a long way with genetic engineering in crops, animals, and maybe in the future, with humans. For right now, I think that genetic engineering is safe because we genetically engineer plants to make them healthier to eat, and we regularly eat genetically engineered plants and food. I believe that when we use genetic engineering to replace mutated genes with healthy genes (and not cloning) we are on our way to getting rid of diseases in our world.
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Works Cited Hollingsworth, C. (2000, February 6). Genetic engineering could boost rice crop consumer groups want to ensure safty. Houston Chronicle , p. A4. Human Genetics Alert. (n.d.). Questions and Answers About Techno-eugenics. Retrieved April 20, 2010, f rom Human Genetics Alert: http://www.hgalert.org/topics/hge/faq.htm Lau, E. (2002, August 4). Genetic engineering turns tomatoes into 'edible vaccines'. Grand Rapids Press , p. A14. Mothers for Natural Law Organization . (2001). What are the Dangers? Retrieved April 15, 2010, from Mothers For Natural Law: http://www.safe-food.org/-issue/dangers.html Northwest Resistance Against Genetic Engineering. (n.d.). FAQs About Genetic Engineering. Retrieved April 21, 2010, from NW RAGE: http://www.nwrage.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=Sections&file=index&req=viewarticl e&artid=13&page=1 Ritchie, R. D. (2010, April ). Genetic Engineering. (B. A. Stock, Interviewer) The Hawk Eye. (2000, October 16). Frakenfood safty; Genetic engineering of speciesis unnerving some consumers . The Hawk Eye , p. Commentary . The Tampa Tribune . (1994, February 11). Food safty not issuse with genetic engineering . The Tampa Tribune , p. 2. Yoon, C. K., & Petersen, M. (2000, April 6). Cautious Support on Biotech Foods by Scientist Panel . New York Times , pp. A1, A22.