What are the benefits of genetic engineering versus the potential risks?
Genetic engineering has several ethical and environmental risks. As legislation is still not equal in every part of the world, it is important to review the potential benefits and risks to be able to decide or at least consider both sides.
One of the main potential benefits of the technology, according to Surhan (2002, p. 24.) is the improvement of medical science. Genetic engineering would be able to produce cells and organisms that are able to tackle viruses or genetic disorders. Further, scientists are able to create microorganisms that can tackle environmental changes and challenges. For example, the development of a wheat plant that is not prone to getting damaged in extremely wet or dry weather would solve the agricultural crises of today.
However, most potential risks of genetic engineering are more serious and immense, as well as diverse. From “engineering the perfect human” to releasing mutant organisms into the environment, there are many threats that would seriously endanger the future of humans, according to Fox. (1998). Further, the WHO report (web) also confirms that environmental risk assessments are necessary to ensure ecosystems’ stability.
What are your personal thoughts on genetic engineering? Do you think genetic engineering provides useful information for the scientific investigation of our natural world or do you think that we should not “mess with Mother Nature”? Explain and support your position.
Genetic engineering is everything that goes against natural selection. It is an artificial method that carries several risks. The impact on the health of the natural environment can be estimated through studies and assessments but they are not reliable enough to ensure that all processes are safe. Introducing GMO species into wild populations would have several irreversible effects, as Matthews and Campbell (2000, p. 378) confirm. Therefore, before proceeding with genetic engineering and implementing technologies, as the above quoted authors confirm, there is a need for interdisciplinary assessments. Further, the impact of GM crops on human health has to be assessed prior to permitting the sale of the products.
Clark, E. A. (2006) Environmental risks of genetic engineering. Euphytica (2006) 148: 47–60
Fox, M. (1998) Danger of GE foods and crops. Organic Consumers Association.
Matthews, J., Campbell, M. (2000) The advantages and disadvantages of the application of genetic engineering to forest trees: a discussion. Forestry, Vol. 73. No. 4.
Surhan, S. (2002) Advantages and disadvantages of genetic engineering as a technology. Bruneiana: Anthology of Science Articles. 3. 2002
WHO (2013) 20 questions on genetically modified foods. Web. http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/biotech/20questions/en/