Evolution

Could Genetic Engineering Affect Evolution



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"Could Genetic Engineering Affect Evolution"
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Today happens to be one of the most exciting days because your son will be born. He will grow up to be a 6'3'' replica of masculine perfection: straight white teeth, tanned skin, brown hair, blue eyes, intelligence and an alluring body to attract all sorts of women. How do you know this? Well you, as his parent, designed his genome of course!
Ron Epstein outlines a disturbing world where social classes will be divided by the people who have the most enhanced and engineered genes. Natural births, without any genetic manipulation, will belong to those few people who now "live in the mountains." Eerily enough, exact clones of celebrities can be born to parents who happen to buy those celebrities' genomes. Genetic engineering extends far beyond children: insects, animals, plants and even diseases will undergo these irreversible genetic changes. These transformations will forever mar the earth as a plague and the vague unknowns of genetic engineering's effects do not seem to be worth putting all life and humanity in peril.
The genome is basically the entire extensive network consisting of genes, which in turn contain a being's DNA, or rather "the code of life." Genetic engineering is a process where the scientists identify and locate certain genes and then manipulate them in such a way, by either removing them completely or inserting new ones, to produce a certain characteristic or trait. This can either influence hair color, height and even emotions: such as depression. The major controversial aspects come from where humans have the "right" to create and change another person's genes, which in turn basically define who a person is. Other arguments will then include the margins of defining what it is to "be" human. Scientifically, that now depends on the percentage of "human" genes a being has. Alarmingly enough, science will soon be able to experiment with this question.
Stephen Hawking, a physicist, comments about certain genetic engineering techniques which includes a Chinese project. The Chinese are now placing human genes in potatoes and tomatoes in order to enhance and accelerate growth of these plants. The faster growing plants may help feed the enormous population, but now it just seems unsettling that a person is literally able to call himself a vegetarian and a cannibal at the same time.
Ron Epstein asks another ethical question now that human genes are being placed into other organisms: "What percent of human genes does an organism need to contain before it is considered human?" New forms of life may arise since these human genes are being placed in non-human organisms. Question after question will keep appearing as this technology advances on.
Another instance is studied by Kenneth S. Kosik, who follows a very rare Alzheimer's disease located in Medellin, Colombia. Isolated families here share very similar genomes due to interbreeding and as a result, many people suffer from this disease. This exact instance makes some scientists hesitant about manipulating actual human genes because if many people want a certain trait, such as green eyes, not only will they have the manipulated gene for eye color, but they will also pass these eye color genes down to their children. If some anomaly occurred in the engineering of the eye color and was undetected for many generations, countless people could be affected since they share the same basic genes in their genome for the green eye trait. Reversible procedures must then be initiated to fix the new mutation and some people may not want to undergo manipulation of their genes, or they may not be able to afford it. Obviously, mutations and the unknowns of genetic engineering will cause an indefinite number of problems and the experts may have no solution or cure for the problem when disaster strikes.
Some genetic engineering projects do seem to be helping humanity in spite of all the questionable negatives. The "Golden Rice Project" is a prime example. An additional plant's genes are being placed in rice genomes to help erase the vitamin A deficiency that many third world populations face. This in turn boosts the immune system's defense that shields the body from many diseases these people come into contact with. While research such as this helps many people, the willingness to apply genetic engineering to all areas of life may become catastrophic.
Numerous hazards will exist and constantly be under more genetic manipulation to fix the flaws caused by the engineers who wish to pursue extensive engineering for the sake of satisfying their curiosity. The majority of people do not realize how close these days are approaching. Would it be wise to start manipulating human genomes in order to reach a state of "perfection?" Is this "perfection" even possible? The curiosity of a few scientists is so great that they are willing to avoid addressing the multitude of unknown dangers associated with this newer science. The effect that this widespread genetic engineering will have is indescribable and unimaginable. The vague unknown does not seem to be worth putting all life and humanity in peril.
Other issues encompassing human individuality will strike as science is applied to the whole "human" aspect. Too much genetic manipulation seems ridiculous, but maybe a medium does exist between helping benefit the world, such as hunger problems, versus people wanting to change their eye color. Before extensive leaps are made in genetic engineering, the long term effects towards humanity must be taken into consideration because the future depends on the choices made today.

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More about this author: Samantha Amstutz

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