Genetic engineering (GE) has been presented to the public as a way to improve the quality of our lives, enhance agriculture and advance our ability to fight genetic illnesses. The possibilities seem endless, but raise worries as well as optimism (Fricker, 2002). The Human Genome Project, conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Department of Health and Human Services, undertook the task of mapping all human genes their chromosomes (Morse, 1998). This project contributed greatly to the potential for GE in humans, but in fact GE has already been used in agriculture. However, some biologists point out that we call “genetic engineering” has ...view middle of the document...
We have many examples of this. The material developed to make heat tiles for the space shuttles is also sold as “Corning Ware,” ceramic cookware that can handles extremes of hot and cold. In the past, science turned into technology clearly beneficial to society. It led to such advances as public transportation, efficient energy supplies, and good water and sewer systems (Fricker, 2002). However, in Western society, where GE is most likely to be used, basic human needs have been met. Some argue that further scientific advances are likely to result in technology serving personal needs (Fricker, 2002). Rawls talks about the “human lottery, (Resnick, 1997), with different people receiving different strengths and weaknesses that make individuals inherently unequal. Proponents of GE see GE as a possible way to level the playing field just a bit by eliminating such diseases as cystic fibrosis and Huntington’s Chorea (Fricker, 2002). The concern is that interest in these personal benefits will expand to more trivial differences, such as using GE with cloning in order to produce more intelligent, or tall, or more musical, or more athletic offspring (Roberson, 1994).
A second argument in favor of GE points to the number of people who face famine and starvation on this planet. They argue that through GE, plants can be produced that grow more vigorously, produce more food, and are more resistant to insects and other crop-reducing problems. This last point is used to point out that such crops would require fewer pesticides, making them more environmentally friendly (Kneen, 2002). However, critics point out some flaws with this reasoning. They argue that people are not starving because the planet does not grow enough food. This is demonstrated by the fact that agencies often bring in food to starving peoples. Critics argue that the problem is not one of not growing enough food. Rather, the problem is poor distribution that does not get food where it is needed. In fact, one author reports that the planet grows more than 50% more food than we need to feed everyone adequately (Fricker, 2002).
A third argument in favor of GE, and possibly the most compelling one, is that we can benefit medically from its use (Resnick, 1997). At one extreme of this view, DNA is viewed as the “master molecule” (Morse, 1998) that controls everything involving a person’s health. The potential for GE in health is so large that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) committed $200 million in the year 1998 to look for medical applications. Private companies had also raised hundreds of millions of dollars for the same purpose (Morse, 1998). Carried too far, however, critics remember Hitler’s attempts at eugenics and fictional accounts of GE run amok, either through excessive control (Alduous Huxley’s Brave New World) or failure to predict problems (Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park) (Resnick, 1997). Both works of fiction raise serious questions about the abuse of genetic...