Looking to buy a new cat but want something different? Look into buying a glow in the dark cat, and yes you read that correctly. Glow in the dark cats are 100% real normal cats, except when the lights turn off they glow. It may sound like science fiction but they most certainly exist. Glow in the dark cats are a result of genetic altering in animals. Scientists say that modifying the genes of animals will enable them to make human genetic diseases in animals (Simmons 1). This will allow them to experiment on the animals to discover cures for humans. Science is rapidly changing and progressing to increasingly more advanced technology every second. This means the ability for people to gain access to the means of genetic engineering is getting closer. As this technology is becoming better known, the controversies surrounding genetic modifications is growing just as quick. Genetic modification for a specific outcome, designer babies, is unethical and should remain untouched. According to Kennedy the definition of genetic modification is “the alteration of the genome of a human, plant or animal by the addition of new genetic material.
Genetic modifications provide a way of expressing desirable characteristics in an organism that otherwise would not display them; it is the insertion of a gene into an organism, altering the genetic makeup” (1). Originally, scientists wanted to use this technology as a method to treating conditions related to the human immune system (Simmons 1). Now there are many different ways scientists can use genetic engineering in humans, plants and animals. One of the most controversial ideas is applying this technology to allow infertile women to be able to conceive. This is done by using the eggs from a different mother, leaving the child with the genetic code inherited from three people instead of just two. From here scientists even believe to advance a step further by choosing traits of your child by selecting certain genes to make them however you please. “Designer baby” is the nickname given to this advanced genetic procedure. This could range from eye color all the way to athletic abilities. The question is, should people be allowed to use this technology for personal gain? First, does selecting for particular traits pose health risks that would not have existed otherwise?
The safety of the procedures used for genetically modifying reproduction is currently under investigation, and because this is a relatively new form of reproductive technology, there is a lack of long-term data and not enough numbers of research subjects (Simmons 1). When it comes to the controversy of letting infertile women conceive, what’s in store for the future? The genetic code of three people will be passed on through future generations, leading to untold potential complications. It is still far too early to judge the potential consequences of this type of genetic technology, but if there are any negative side effects they are likely to be far reaching and extremely damaging. Still, one safety concern often raised involves the fact that most genes have more than one effect. For example, according to Danielle Simmons “in the late 1990s, scientists discovered a gene that is linked to memory and modifying this gene in mice greatly improved learning and memory, but it also caused increased sensitivity to pain” (1). Increased pain sensitivity is obviously not a desirable trait. When considering the right or wrong remember the challenge lies in overcoming the potentially catastrophic side effects which can occur if the treatment does not work. Over the years, many trainers and athletes have had the desire to better their athletic abilities by abusing scientific research in an attempt to gain an unjust advantage over their competitors. The practice known as doping, frequently abuses substances such as steroids and growth hormones.
The original use of performance-enhancing drugs was meant to treat people with disease. With advancing technology it is easy to predict that future athletes will tamper with their very own genetic code. It is important to know that gene therapy is a procedure that exists and is legal; it is used by doctors to add or modify genes to prevent an illness. Doctors are saying the advancement of gene therapy as a use of enhancement for someone without any illness is then considered “gene doping” (Friedman 1). According to Dr. Theodore Friedman head of the World Anti-doping Agency, “no one has tried this yet, but it will happen we just don’t know when” (1). Gene doping would apply the same techniques as gene therapy except used on healthy individuals. This is a technique athletes could use in the future to modify their genes to perform better in sports. This would mean either adding genes to the ones they were already born with or altering how the body uses the genes they already have.
Beyond questions of safety, issues of individual liberties also arise. For instance, should parents be allowed to modify the genes of their children to select for certain traits when the children themselves cannot give consent? Every person has their own idea of what “normal” is or what is seen as “perfect” so if they try making their kid within their ideals of what those words mean, will it only backfire? Figure 1
“Genetic Engineering.” Genetic Engineering. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2013. Figure 1 above perfectly captures the idea of creating this concept of “perfect”. Scientists are always trying to advance to the next big discovery but how does one decide on what is perfect or not? In reference to figure 1, scientists should not be working on unrealistic social standards when there are more important diseases to cure. There is no rubric to being perfect; this opinion will vary from everyone including parents and their children. Think about this, if a mother and father choose an embryo based on its supposed potential toward athletics, but the child grows up to dislike sports. Will this alter the way the parents feel about their child and vice versa? When “playing god” doesn’t go as planned, the money you spent and expectations you had formed since day one would be completely gone. When it comes to new advancing technology, there are positive reasons for its existence.
The creation of genetic modification in humans was made to treat conditions relating to the immune system. Cancer researchers and patients are constantly gaining the benefits of genetic engineering. Many experimental treatments use genetically modified viruses to target and destroy cancer cells. A recent study showed that oncologists from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York were able to effectively treat a specific form of acute leukemia using genetically engineered viruses (Clapper 1). Referring back to the discussion of gene doping, the positive aspect is what it was created from, gene therapy. Gene therapy is used to treat genetic diseases at the molecular level by correcting what is wrong in defective genes. With genetic engineering, it will be possible to change the genes to make a disease not as life threatening. The amount of diseases will decrease and the most relevant diseases will not be as prominent anymore (Arnold 1). If genetic engineering was used for only serious medical diseases and not tweaking an embryos genetic code for someone else’s preferences there wouldn’t be all this controversy. Science is advancing and there’s nothing people can do to prevent negative uses of technology if the facts are not known. It’s always best to look at both the positives and negatives to make an individual decision. This would than lead to questions about what’s in store for the future of society in America for those supporting genetic modification in embryos (designer babies). Trait selection and enhancement in embryos raises moral issues involving both individuals and society. In terms of society, it is not possible for everyone to have access to this type of expensive technology.
This would mean the upper class society will be able to have “designer children” that possess greater intelligence or physical attractiveness. While middle and lower class wouldn’t have access this will grow the already huge economic gap between them and upper class. This could lead to a genetic privileged class and create new forms of inequality. According to Several bioethicists they want to have “a ban on species-altering technology because there is concern that such technology could be used to create a slave race, that is, a race of sub-humans that would be exploited”(Glenn 1). In April 1998, scientists Jeremy Rifkin and Stuart Newman, who are both opposed to genetically modified organisms, applied for a patent for a “humanzee,” part human and part chimpanzee, to fuel debate and to draw attention to potential abuses on this issue. The patent was of course denied on the grounds that it violated the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits slavery (1). Genetic modification for a specific outcome, designer babies, is unethical and should remain untouched. The controversies analyzed surrounding genetic engineering were health risks, gene doping, an individual’s rights, ethics and society.
First of all, these controversies fit together, as gene doping and the health risks make genetic engineering unethical. Second of all, an individual’s rights effect the way society grows. Finally, the positive aspects of genetic engineering discussed, such as destroying harmful diseases, help realize that we need genetic modification but designer babies for a specific outcome should remain untouched. The difference is clear between the two different ways this technology could be used. Knowing these facts an educated decision can be made when this technology becomes available to the public. Overall, it is strongly encouraged that the consequences of designer babies be passed along for others to learn the facts.
Clapper, Rayshell. “The Pros of Genetic Engineering: Why ‘Playing God’ Could Help The Human Race.” Genetic Engineering Pros: Why ‘Playing God’ Isn’t Necessarily Bad. Your Universe Online, n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2013. “‘Designer Baby’ Patent Concerns Bioethicists.” Science 342.6155 (2013): 172-173. Academic Search Premier. Web. 6 Nov. 2013. Glenn, Linda. “Ethical Issues in Genetic Engineering and Transgenics.” Actionbioscience. American Institute American Institute of Biological Sciences, June 2004. Web. 18 Oct. 2013. Kennedy, Martin. “Science Media Centre.” Science Media Centre RSS. The New Zealand Science Media Centre, 19 Sept. 2008. Web. 18 Oct. 2013. Powell, Russell. “The Evolutionary Biological Implications Of Human Genetic Engineering.” Journal Of Medicine ; Philosophy 37.3 (2012): 204-225. Academic Search Premier. Web. 19 Oct. 2013. “Pros and Cons of Genetic Engineering in Humans.” Bright Hub. The Hub for Bright Minds, 28 Feb. 2012. Web. 17 Oct. 2013. Simmons, Danielle. “Genetic Inequality: Human Genetic Engineering.” Nature.com. Nature Publishing Group, 2008. Web. 18 Oct. 2013.