A girl is born without Tay-Sachs disease, a devastating genetic disorder that has decimated many babies worldwide. A leukemia patient has defective bone marrow replaced with healthy bone marrow cloned from tissue from her own cells. These futuristic scenarios should be part of the debate for genetic engineering. Many people are afraid that someone will clone Hitler or some other evil person, but that is far from the truth.
Genetic engineering can be used to improve many aspects of human life, including saving lives. The rapid development of humanity’s ability to control genes will eventually lead to a promising future for the entire planet. Genetic engineering did not result from the belief that nature should be manipulated and perfected by humanity, but rather, its principle aim is, like any other technology, to improve the quality of life for the people of this planet. Therefore, it is necessary to weigh the benefits and consequences of this relatively recent breakthrough and determine the ways in which it can be used to humanity’s best advantage.
This speech will investigate the ways in which genetic engineering affects two important areas in today’s society. The first one will be the improvement of the world’s agricultural techniques. With an ever-increasing growth in the world population, the Earth’s resources are constantly becoming scarce. The advent of genetic engineering may be used to avert the occurrence of worldwide famine and starvation.
The second topic to be investigated is in the field of medical development and study. Currently, genetic diseases are decimating the world’s population. Thousands of people have already died without a single effective treatment or cure. Worldwide acceptance and support of this technology would aid in our battle against these diseases. According to the United Nations medium projections issued in 1990 by the Population Council, the global population will increase from 5.3 billion in 1990 to 8 billion.
In the year 2025, the world population is projected to reach 5 billion. Consequently, there will be a much greater need for food, accelerating the consumption of Earth’s resources. To meet this demand, extensive use of agricultural technology will be necessary. However, our current use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers poses a serious environmental threat. The use of genetic engineering would ultimately reduce the amount of potentially dangerous chemical substances introduced into the environment. It would also make food production more efficient, reducing distribution costs.
Thanks to genetic engineering, geneticists are currently able to create a resistant strain of the ordinary supermarket tomato (Pen*censored*, 1992). Using a technique called antisense genetics, the gene that is responsible for allowing tomatoes to soften and ripen can be transformed to produce the opposite effect. The billions of tomatoes that circulate all around the world can therefore be made to resist the normal abuse of shipping and transport, and also have a longer shelf life. This practice could be applied to all other sorts of fruits and vegetables, allowing for less waste of food and putting less strain on human resources. Diseases and genetic defects have always been a major cause of concern for our society.
Antibiotics, which used to be successful against pathogens, are now becoming useless since viruses have become resistant to the medications. Therefore, a proposed alternative is the use of genetic engineering, specifically gene therapy, to cure diseases at the DNA level. This method, known as biotechnology, can aid in the treatment of diseases such as hormone deficiency. Currently, a common diagnostic practice for unborn fetuses is genetic screening. A needle is inserted into the uterus of the pregnant woman to extract amniotic fluid, which can diagnose several hundred diseases and defects before birth (Office of Technology, 1990).
Therefore, parents can choose to have an abortion if they do not want their child to have a defect. Vaccination has changed very little over two centuries since Edward Jenner, the first physician to try the method on a human being (Yong Kang, 1989). However, this process has become obsolete because killing the virus makes it more likely to mutate into a more resistant strain that is incurable. As a result, every new strain would require a new vaccine, costing more money and time.
A new method of producing vaccines is currently being studied. It involves recombining the DNA of the virus so that it will not be able to reproduce. This would be as effective.