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Dangers And Disadvantages Of Genetic Engineering

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360,000 babies are born every single day. Now imagine each one of them the exact same. That is what genetic engineering will result in. Gene therapy is the genetic engineering of humans, where defective genes are replaced with effective ones. There is much debate surrounding this controversial topic as there are both benefits and risks to consider. However ultimately, when weighed side by side, the risks far outweigh the benefits. Genetic engineering should not be a viable option for use on embryos due to safety and ethical concerns as well as the creation and division of classes in society.

Some people advocate for genetic engineering arguing that it has the potential to remove deadly diseases from the human population. One form of genetic engineering, somatic gene therapy, is used to eliminate unfavorable genes and replace them with favorable traits. One article reports, “A corrected/healthy gene is introduced into the body of the host through a biological vector, usually in the form of a non-harmful virus. Ideally, the healthy gene becomes incorporated into the cells and then is replicated, creating a cure for the affected individual” (Michaels 1). This could greatly reduce the chance that a child develops a deadly genetic disorder during its lifetime. Although this may be true, further research has shown that it is not always permanent. A research article quotes, “Most tissue cells eventually die and are replaced. It is possible for the unhealthy genes to be reproduced over time and the syndrome to require periodic treatment with an infusion of new genes” (Michaels 1).

As much as genes may be altered to eliminate illnesses, it is only a futile attempt. The unfavorable genes will be reproduced and the surgery will have to be performed again and again causing stress upon the body. The repetition of such expensive procedures is an unnecessary use of valuable resources that could be used elsewhere in the healthcare industry where the results are positive and lasting. Genetic engineering on embryos poses a major safety concern that needs to be considered before being implemented in the healthcare industry. While discussing his research on molecular biology and genetic engineering, Professor Topol from the Scripps Research Institute explains, “Our ability to discern these changes (in genetic material) is still rudimentary, and it is entirely likely that we will miss something. The fact that we may not have seen unintended mutations brought about by editing is by no means proof of their absence” (Topol 1). He goes on to state, “With six billion letters in the genome that could be affected, the risk of unintended editing is considerable and requires extensive scrutiny to understand and mitigate” (Topol 1).

Genetic engineering works on a molecular scale meaning that every single edit must be one hundred percent accurate otherwise there will be a cascade of fatal effects including the creation of dysfunctional proteins and critical enzymes. When something this precise is used on embryos, there is no guarantee of its accuracy and that generates a multitude of safety questions and complications such as the creation of new diseases. With any newborn, safety is the number one concern, and without assurance, by research and clinical trials, it should not be used under real-life circumstances. Researchers as part of a Chinese study on the editing of the CCR5 gene in embryos conducted by Dr. He went on to reveal that CRISPR (the tool used in gene therapy/genetic engineering) does not have laser-like precision when it comes to editing. This is important to consider because the predominant risks are the potential impacts of the editing on other letters of the genome, which could induce diseases. For example, certain critical genes for suppressing cancer are particularly susceptible to unintended editing. One change in these genes can result in increased susceptibility to serious illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, and cystic fibrosis. Without laser-like precision and over six billion letters to consider, genetic engineering causes an immense risk of editing one incorrect gene leading to health and safety concerns for the embryo. Not only does genetic engineering generate safety concerns, but it also disregards ethical components to any medical procedure.

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Genetic engineering infringes ethical guidelines including informed consent as well as religious perspectives which are key elements in the healthcare industry. In an article written by the National Human Research Institute, many scientists and researchers discuss the impact of genetic engineering. At one point the article discloses, “Some people worry that it is impossible to obtain informed consent for germline therapy because the patients affected by the edits are the embryo and future generations” (National 1). Informed consent is the acknowledgment of risk by the patient before undergoing any surgical procedure. In the case of genetic engineering on embryos, informed consent is impossible to attain and since the genome itself is being altered, it affects subsequent generations, again without consent. This takes away the rights of the embryo and could cause severe repercussions should anything go wrong. In another study, geneticist Craig Venter researched semi-synthetic organisms in hopes of taking a step toward building synthetic organisms that can be controlled. As his study progressed, analysts called him out for “playing God” (LaPensee 1). The Christian Democratic Group backed up this statement by asserting, “We are in favor of research and development in biotechnology, but human beings must not be destroyed, not even in the early stages of their development” (LaPensee 1).

Wherever the blueprint of life is being transformed or the fundamental concepts of what constitutes life are challenged, such as in genetic engineering, there should be a respectful understanding of all points of view. Many people believe that God created humans and changing humans at their very core (the human genome) is an insult to God. The medical code of ethical guidelines includes the acceptance of religious beliefs, and genetic engineering is a violation of this code. Religious beliefs and informed consent can shape patients treatments and genetic engineering does not account for this perspective. Genetic engineering will also have a lasting effect on society by creating a new class and increasing the separation between those classes that already exist. In the process of analyzing genetic engineering, the National Genome Research Institute expresses concern by explaining, “Genome editing will only be accessible to the wealthy and will increase existing disparities in access to health care and other interventions. Taken to its extreme, germline editing could create classes of individuals defined by the quality of their engineered genome” (National 1).

Those with money are able to afford genetic engineering and this causes a divide in society. By increasing an already existing divide, genetic engineering will lead to discrimination against those unable to access such technology. Furthermore, researchers studying the relationship between disabilities and genetic engineering declare, “The process of creating designer babies is too similar to eugenics, the process of selectively breeding humans to enhance the species’ genetic makeup” (Designer 1). Altering the DNA of embryos to eliminate “human impairments” is wrong and reinforces the perception that disabled people are undesirable in society. If such practices become commonplace, people will become even less tolerant of disabled individuals, and any other individuals with diseases, than they already are creating a new class of “elite individuals.”

Genetic engineering on embryos is not an option for parents because of safety and ethical concerns as well as the ultimate creation and division of societal classes. Safety, ethics, and society are all disregarded in the process of genetic engineering, and each one of these components is critical to any procedure in the medical field. Genetic engineering will affect every single generation whether informed or not and one mistake can cause the subsequent generations to be affected as well. If no action is taken against the concerns of genetic engineering, the results would be chaotic and amplified through each generation. This takes away from the very process (natural selection) that has favored us for as long as we have lived. Without solutions to safety, ethical, and societal concerns, genetic engineering should not be implemented in the healthcare industry.

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Dangers And Disadvantages Of Genetic Engineering. (2022, February 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved August 12, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/dangers-and-disadvantages-of-genetic-engineering/
“Dangers And Disadvantages Of Genetic Engineering.” Edubirdie, 27 Feb. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/dangers-and-disadvantages-of-genetic-engineering/
Dangers And Disadvantages Of Genetic Engineering. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/dangers-and-disadvantages-of-genetic-engineering/> [Accessed 12 Aug. 2022].
Dangers And Disadvantages Of Genetic Engineering [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 27 [cited 2022 Aug 12]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/dangers-and-disadvantages-of-genetic-engineering/
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