Genetic Engineering


Ethical questions about Genetic Engineering.
Note by alina.ecke, updated more than 1 year ago
Created by alina.ecke over 9 years ago

Resource summary

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Genetic engineering, or genetic modification, uses a variety of tools and techniques from biotechnology and bioengineering to modify an organism’s genetic makeup.

Transgenics refers to those specific genetic engineering processes that remove genetic material from one species of plant or animal and add it to a different species. Due to the high similarity in genetic sequences for proteins among species, transgenic organisms are able to effectively assimilate and express these trans-genes.

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Ethical Issues

Transgenic biotechnology presents an exciting range of possibilities, from feeding the hungry to preventing and treating diseases; however, these promises are not without potential peril. Some of the issues that need to be considered are the following:

Social Concerns If the blending of animal and human DNA results, intentionally or not, in chimeric entities possessing degrees of intelligence or sentience never before seen in nonhuman animals, should these entities be given rights and special protections? What, if any, social and legal controls or reviews should be placed on such research? What unintended personal, social, and cultural consequences could result? Who will have access to these technologies and how will scarce resources—such as medical advances and novel treatments—be allocated? Extrinsic Concerns What, if any, health risks are associated with transgenics and genetically modified foods?13 Are there long-term effects on the environment when transgenic or genetically modified organized are released in the field? Should research be limited and, if so, how should the limits be decided? How should the limits be enforced nationally and internationally? Intrinsic Concerns Are there fundamental issues with creating new species? Are species boundaries “hard” or should they be viewed as a continuum? What, if any, consequences are there of blurring species boundaries? Are chimeras and transgenics more likely to suffer than “traditional” organisms? Will transgenic interventions in humans create physical or behavioral traits that may or may not be readily distinguished from what is usually perceived to be “human”? What, if any, research in genetic engineering should be considered morally impermissible and banned (e.g., research undertaken for purely offensive military purposes)?14 Will these interventions redefine what it means to be “normal”?

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