Genetic engineering could change our future for the better

The phrase “genetic engineering” is enough to conjure up a mental image of twisted sci-fi and immediately make an audience uncomfortable. Genetic engineering is not something the media normally talks about, and the apparent lack of insight has created a deep-seated fear and many misconceptions about the science behind it and its usage in our society. However, this science is constantly evolving, and although previous experiments were primarily done on crops and animals, humans are the current controversial subjects of genetic engineering. Because the science makes more cameos in eerie films than it does on CNN or major news networks, the unfamiliarity fuels accusations of an intrinsic immorality.

As with any contentious technology, real progress can only be made through exercising caution while simultaneously pursuing every opportunity with which to further practical application. In the case of genetic and prenatal engineering, researchers must create a firm divide between healing populations — an undoubtedly worthy cause — and breeding populations, a usage which could have dire consequences for our world.

Genetic engineering makes it possible for scientists to add certain traits which are not found in the organism in question, or take out the ones that could cause potential harm. Genes are removed from a specimen who has the desired trait, cloned and delivered into cells of the new organism. In the latter case, deficient genes that are the root of disease are replaced to prevent future suffering.

This methodology is precisely what causes such controversy in the eyes of the general public. The progression of genetic engineering could lead to communities in which solely “superhumans” are born, all with the same DNA, same characteristics and same seemingly perfect qualities. Many think this technology needs to be limited, as the only positive utilization of genetic engineering in humans would be its role in removing specific predispositions for diseases in society.

Those who attack prenatal engineering are attached to an idea that a species should remain stagnant and immutable, when in fact human life spanning generation to generation is already in a consistent state of natural evolution. The issue then becomes how and when to utilize genetic engineering. If we were able to prenatally engineer babies to get rid of certain genes that would later express and cause disease, then our world would be virtually free of many of the conditions that plague humanity.

Although genetic engineering has a lot further to go to become a trusted technology, current opportunities for its utilization have already been deemed successful. One such treatment, known as mitochondrial transfer, occurs when doctors replace a mother’s defective mitochondrial DNA, which would cause serious health problems or even death to a newborn, with that of a donor’s. This process is able to remove the possibility of future suffering for both the mother and the child through a simple process which leaves the baby with three genetic parents — one father and two mothers.

Opposition to this technology claims that having children with genetic information from three different individuals is a perverse idea and one that will genetically alter the makeup of future children. There is no question that this treatment is unnatural, but how natural are the prosthetic limbs that have allowed people to walk again, or the IVF treatments that give couples who can’t conceive on their own the chance to have children? There’s nothing inherently natural about any medical innovation we’ve made in the past and continue to make, so it is unfair to deem one advance unnatural and wrong and regard another as helpful.

Genetic engineering will affect more than one generation, and cutting off research and experimentation on the basis of a claim that it is too dangerous or abnormal is not only a detriment to our current society, but takes away the chance of healthy lives for millions in the future. If people took the time to understand the science behind this technology, they would realize that the implication of its absence is undoubtedly more frightening than its presence.

[email protected]