Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Genetic Engineering & Bioethiocs

Science has proven that DNA is the basis of heredity in nearly all living creatures. It is unusual to think that the same molecules that make a fungus a living creature are also similar for human life. The science of genetics has even found gene sequence coding for specific enzymes and proteins that are virtually identical in humans, plants, and microorganisms. Experiments have shown that genes from one species can be manipulated and expressed in another species.

With the advances from biotechnology in agriculture, medicine, and other areas, genes from highly diverse organisms have been transformed into other species to obtain the expression of a certain trait. An often-cited example is again that of Bt corn. A gene from a soil-borne bacterium was engineered into corn to provide resistance to a devastating insect species. For many, this is not ethically wrong, but others find inherent problems in the use of genes across species. It is a basic issue with the science of biotechnology: whether or not our knowledge of DNA and genetics should allow us to manipulate organisms that are not naturally compatible. Many believe that such genetic manipulation is beyond the realms of responsible and moral science. Does such DNA manipulation change the inherent properties of corn or any other organism, or does biotechnology serve to expand the frontiers of life?

This question is one of the basic ethical arguments behind biotechnology and is actually just the beginning of the many ethical questions that can be directed at this science. Despite arguments about the moral justifications of basic genetic engineering, scientists continue to develop products using advanced methods of gene manipulation. However, many cultures and traditions might be affected by such engineering techniques. For instance, those of the Jewish faith abstain from the use of pork, as it is traditionally considered unclean. What would be the ethical implications of using swine genes in a medicine, plant, or other product? Would it compromise the faith of one who abstains from pork? Such examples can be expanded to include many other scenarios in which this encounter of science with tradition could occur. The issue leads to the questioning of many long-held traditions and beliefs. Perhaps life is simpler than previously thought, and advances in genetics and biotechnology allow us to understand how life is simply contained in the ordered chemistry of DNA. This leads to the importance of public awareness of the applications of biotechnology and must also be included in a debate about ethical implications related to this expanding science.

Finallly where do we move from here?
The fine line between right and wrong, or between ethically acceptable and ethically unacceptable behavior, is a tremendous part of bioethics. If it were possible to define those limits or present a rule of thumb to guide ethically correct decisions, it would certainly be mentioned here. However, it seems that many of the ethical cases related to biotechnology have no clear right or wrong and should be judged on an individual basis. Ethical considerations relating to the many facets of biotechnology should not be something that is only discussed at a company board meeting or within the committee rooms of governing organizations. Many of these new technologies will affect everyone in the near future, and it is important to recognize the many considerations involved in biological sciences. Biotechnology is advancing and making progress on the major factors that limit the lives of billions of people. Solutions to the problems of hunger, disease, pollution, and others are being found using the science of biotechnology, yet many are apprehensive about the technology or fear the technical nature of the science.

Despite the greatest efforts, balanced arguments that will satisfy everyone are impossible to find. The first step for anyone is to become educated in the background, the science, and the applications of biotechnology. It is then important to be informed about how biotechnology affects the risks, benefits, and moral implications associated with superior health care, enhanced crop production, and environmental improvement. This knowledge must be used to make informed and sound judgments, so that opinions are based on fact and study, and not on emotion, hype, or fear. Ultimately, each individual must take the essential steps to understand biotechnology.

Tags: Bio Technology, Bio Genetics, Bioethics

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