Genetic engineering is the process of altering the genetic composition of plants, animals, and humans. The most practical application of genetic engineering is to create a more sustainable food system for the people of Earth, but there are other ways we can use it to our advantage as well.
Unfortunately, there are both pros and cons of genetic engineering. For every benefit, there is a list of concerns and potential problems we need to consider. There is a substantive argument on both sides of genetic engineering, and we’ll explore both ahead.
Positives of Genetic Engineering
Most people tend to focus on the negatives of genetic engineering, but there are some substantial positive we need to consider as well. Genetic engineering is a debate, and there are some good points on each side. You have to look at both the pros and cons of genetic engineering if you want to make an informed decision on the matter.
Extending Our Lives
Evolution takes thousands of years to adapt to our surroundings, but genetic engineering offers a quicker path forward. With the assistance of genetic engineering, we could force our bodies to adapt to the changing climate of our planet.
Additionally, we could tack-on some extra years to our lives by altering our cells, so our bodies don’t deteriorate as quickly as they currently do. The fountain of youth might be within our reach, and many look forward to advancements in the area of genetic engineering.
If we choose to go down this path, we’ll feel better as we age and be able to outlast some of the diseases that currently take us down. We still won’t be able to live forever, but genetic engineering shows promise in extending the prime of our lives.
Create New and Better Food
Food shortage is a massive problem in the world, especially with the growing population. We’re destroying natural habitats to make way for farmland, and overgrazing is causing current pastures to become dry and uninhabited.
The answer to this problem could come in the form of genetic engineering. If we can alter the composition of vegetables and animals, we can create new foods that might have more nutritional value than nature creates on its own.
We might even be able to advance to a point where foods give us medicines we need to combat widespread viruses and illnesses. Food is one of the most promising spaces when considering the prospect of genetic engineering.
Killing Hereditary Diseases
A lot of diseases depend on genetic predisposition. Some people are more likely to get cancer, Alzheimer’s and other diseases than their neighbor. With genetic engineering, we can get rid of these genetic predispositions once and for all.
There will likely still be some environmental concerns that will cause diseases, but if we start altering the genes of humans, we may become resistant to genetic abnormalities. Family history won’t mean anything when it comes to things like cancer, and we can start eliminating diseases that are completely based on genetics.
Making Every Child Healthy
There are already a handful of diseases and illnesses we can detect while a baby is still in the womb. We even can genetically engineer some diseases and illnesses out of a baby’s system before they’re born.
Finding out your baby has a disease can be devastating, and some parents make the difficult choice to spare their child possible pain. If you know that your baby might suffer and die a few months after they’re born, you have to decide whether or not you want to roll the dice.
In the future, we might be able to eliminate the chances of unhealthy babies. Diseases like Huntington’s offer a substantial chance that the carrier will pass it onto their child. If the child isn’t positive for the disease, they’ll still be a carrier and have to deal with the same dilemma when it comes time to have kids of their own.
Genetic engineering has the potential to stop these threats in their tracks. Parents won’t have to worry about birthing a healthy son or daughter. Science will guarantee that every baby is happy and healthy when they come into this world.
Negatives of Genetic Engineering
Of course, genetic engineering isn’t entirely positive. There is an upside to the ability to genetically alter humans and animals, but only in ideal situations.
Our world isn’t perfect, and scientists make mistakes all the time. We can’t assume that genetic engineering will be available to the entirety of the human population, which is a flaw in itself.
The negatives of genetic engineering seem to outweigh the positives, especially since there is so much room for error. We don’t know what we’re tampering with, which opens the door to a host of potential problems.
The Ethical Dilemma
There are a couple of ethical problems with genetic engineering that we need to consider as a society. Those who subscribe to religion will see genetic engineering as blasphemy, for instance. We’d be “playing God,” in a sense. Anyone who believes in creation will be expressly against genetic engineering – especially in human children.
Those who are on the opposite side of the spectrum from religious people probably won’t love genetic engineering either. Genetically engineered food might work, but changing the genes of people will add to the overpopulation problem we’re currently experiencing.
Diseases are one of the most effective forms of population control. We don’t have the heart to eliminate other humans in the name of population control, so disease does it for us. If we eliminate diseases, humans will have virtually no threat left on this planet.
Living longer lives might be ideal, but it isn’t practical. If we extend the prime of our lives, we’re opening the door to having more children. Since all children would be in perfect health, we’ll see a population increase that could have devastating consequences.
If genetic engineering becomes a reality, it will likely only be available to the richest members of society. They’ll be able to extend their lives, limit diseases, and make sure their children are always healthy when they’re born
When this happens, natural selection is completely obsolete. Instead, the wealthiest in society will thrive while the poor will die-out. Eventually, genetic diversity will completely disappear as genetically engineered children all express the most desirable characteristics
This problem also arises in nature if we decide to engineer plants and animals genetically. These organisms might start as food, but could introduce themselves to the wild and take over. They’ll decimate natural species, and eventually be the only thing left.
The Possibility of Mistakes
One of the biggest hurdles in genetic engineering is the possibility of errors or genetic defects, especially in humans. Scientists have a general understanding of what creates a functioning human, but they don’t yet have all the pieces to the puzzle.
When it comes down to changing humans at a cellular level, scientists don’t yet have the understanding of how small changes can affect the development of a growing baby. Changing genes could result in more damaging birth defects or even miscarriages.
Furthermore, tampering with diseases could end up creating a super-disease that is even harder to combat. There are too many variables in the human body for genetic engineering to work to the fullest potential. Even if it could, people will probably be too nervous to trust scientists tampering with the cells of their future children.
The Logical Extreme
Science still isn’t at a point where they can alter the genes of humans to prevent all diseases in unborn children, but it might be there soon. When that time comes, some might take genetic engineering to its logical extreme.
Our priority will be to create healthy children. Once we perfect this process, though, where to, we go? The next logical step is the ability to pick certain traits that our children will have. We might be able to select whether we have a boy or girl. Then, we can decide what eye color and hair color they have.
Pretty soon, we’re selecting every trait that our child has before they leave the womb. Nature will be virtually out of the question at this point, and people with enough money will design their babies from scratch.
Is Genetic Engineering Good or Bad?
Since the pros and cons of genetic engineering are compelling, it’s worth it to explore the possibility further. We still haven’t reached a place where scientists fully understand the opportunities genetic engineering presents, so they still have years of research on their hands.
In the end, though, no system of genetically altering humans, animals, or plants will be perfect. There is a massive potential for errors, and we likely won’t have equal opportunities if and when scientists ever crack the case.
Although the positives of genetic engineering are convincing, the negatives can be terrifying. If we ever get to the point where we can genetically alter humans, we need to consider the moral, ethical, and practical application of technology before going any further.