Where do you stand on genetic modification?

02 jan 2018

written by: theodor spadeson
Genetic engineering

The news from “The Guardian” telling us that scientists get the green light to genetically modify the human embryos called a stormy reaction all over the globe.

The humanity has divided into two contrary sides. The first part is beyond excited about the possibility of creating a perfect DNA of the child, while the others are explicitly negative. Let us review the situation and try to derive the objective opinion.

To start with, let us consider the DNA modification, how can it be performed, and what DNA elements does this modification act upon.

What is DNA? Colloquially, it is a technical manual for life. This manual includes the “specifications”, that predetermine and hold the instructions for an organism. The nucleus of an every cell contains the molecule of DNA, which consists of four subunits represented by the letters A, T, G, and C. Exactly the order of these subunits frame the information for the cell how to produce the vital proteins for an organism.

The DNA can be broken apart into small segments, which bear the name “genes”. Each segment, gene, holds the instructions for producing the single protein. A living organism can contain thousands of genes. Together, all genes frame a genome. A genome can contain thousands of manuals and specifications.

Why are proteins important for the organism? Proteins perform work in cells: they can serve as bricks in cell walls, serve as enzymes speeding up the reactions. Everything you observe in the organism is a result of proteins activity.

Those “technical specifications” can be replaced, or complemented in order to apply changes, which may affect the outcome.

For instance, a gene with a particular trait can be taken from one organism and inserted into another one and give it the ability to express the encoded trait.

Design engineering vs. traditional breeding

Genetic engineering vs. traditional breeding.

Both genetic engineering and traditional breeding are aimed at improvement of the organism’s traits, but they have some key peculiarities.

Genetic engineering is a physical method of gene transition between the living organisms, while traditional breeding is a natural gene movement via mating and crossing.

Traditional breeding implies the “alignment”, or, “combination” of parental genes, where the offspring takes a half of father’s genes and a half of mother’s. Sometimes, the unwanted and undesirable genes can pass to the offspring. Especially afflictive it comes to heritable diseases.

Traditional breeding is effective in improving traits: it eliminates weak genes taken from one parent and substitutes them with strong ones from another parent.

An interesting thing. Traditional breeding is imperfect, but is genetical engineering perfect?

Looking below the surface, it becomes obvious, that biological consistent pattern works inside the frames of the species. It means, that traditional breeding can move only the existing genes.

Genetic engineering, on the other hand physically removes the genes from one organism and inserts into another. This means, that organisms do not need mating.

Genetic modifications

Hence, the diversity of potential traits available for movement is almost unlimited.

On that basis, it would be fair to admit, that genetic engineering can eliminate the possibility of pathogenic mechanisms and paths almost entirely. But the flipside of the coin is that the current genetic modification editing techniques are far from perfect, and frequently lead to mutations of the embryo.

For today, it is crystal clear, that genetic engineering is even more than imperfect. The leading scientists and biologists cannot predict the possible consequences of the manipulations. Of course, they have a scenario for the development of the process, but, nature always has alternative flows.

The moral aspect of genetic modification.

Let us come to the point of morality.

Would you be pleased with the opportunity to program the interests of your future child or would you consider it a scoff at human nature?

As we have already mentioned, there is a great deal of controversy over the idea of designing babies. Those, who are explicitly negative about the idea are somewhat right and have a solid ground under their stance.

First of all, it is very important to state, that “Being imperfect makes us humans”.

Genetic adjustments

We all are different: bodies, mentality, health, preferences, and many other things that make us individual, peculiar, and special. No one is perfect, and that is the beauty of it. The parents always love their children whether they are blue-eyed or brown-eyed, blond, brunet, or ginger. Of course, parents always want their children to be healthy, enthusiastic and have a strong and resistive immunity.

You’d wonder, is not giving your child a strong immunity and health since the very beginning a reason to adhere to genetic engineering?

Yes, it is a good and reasonable point. But, even despite the fact, that this genetic engineering imperfection is a matter of time, it is obvious, that nature will always have something to say.

It frequently happens, when preventing one genetic disease you are likely to cause another complex genetic disease. Moreover, giving your child a selected trait can lead to unknown consequences, that can appear later.

Any discussion about the GM is complete without the debates on the topic of eugenics, an idea once embraced by the Nazis. The Nazis under the auspices of Adolf Hitler and his racially based social policy tried to improve the Aryan race through eugenics. Adolf was sure, that the German nation had become weak, exhausted, and corrupted by dysgenics.

The idea of Nazi eugenics was to annihilate those, who were counted to be defective: Jews, Gypsies, communists, people with mental disorders, and others. The purpose of such treatment was to save only the strong and resistive genes, hence to recreate a “clean” and strong Aryan race to dominate the world.

Some say:

Instead of digging the ground towards the core of genetic engineering, humanity should instead focus on the importance of environmental influences in health. Why do we face diseases, disorders and different problems? Because instead of healing our planet and improving the environmental conditions, we run our planet ragged and try to find the alternative way to eliminate the effects.

Yes, there is a grain of truth in these words. What do you think?

Genetic corrections

Continuing with the possible consequences of the genetic engineering, we would like to admit, that if it will be approved and brought to masses, only the wealthy ones will have a possibility to apply the technology.

Without a shadow of a doubt, the procedure of genetic design of a child will cost a lot, hence it will create a tremendous inequality in the society.

Would it be fair if only the wealthy and mighty ones have an access to the healthy life?

All those people, who live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to give their children the best they can suffer from the fact, that they cannot afford the better, the healthier life, while the wealthy domain of the society indulges in every pleasure.

Furthermore, such inequality can lead to harmful consequences in future, where the genetically modified people will run the world because they represent the “elite”, the improved human race, while the “plebs” will serve only as “hands”. The discrimination and the inequality will be inscribed onto the human genome, and such conditions can create a detonation in the society.

Recall an old film “Gattaca”, for instance. Whoa, 20 years later after the release of the sci-fi movie, that seemed so “idea ficta”, we now realize, that it is not such a fiction.

“Gattaca” shows the world, where the society is divided into two sides: “valids” and “in-valids”. The distinction between those sides is that valids are genetically modified, and the in-valids are not.

Consequently, the valids rule the world and occupy the best places and jobs, while the in-valids are just a sort of janitors in this world. It would be incorrect to spoil the plot of the film because there are people, who have not seen this film yet. Hence, we won't do that.

Genetic designing

Renewing the subject, we admit, that in future, the biotechnological breakthrough will be spectacular, the genetic engineering will level up the capabilities, and we will face the world of designer people, for sure.

There are important cornerstones of application of genetic modification, that, if applied, will help to improve the world and not to destroy it. The dilemma about the permission/ban of the genetic engineering of a human embryo settles uncertainties.

If the technology will be banned legislatively, the underground business will appear. The shady business will provide services of genetic modifications and will carry out illegal experiments with the human genome.

If the technology will be banned legislatively, the underground business will appear. The shady business will provide services of genetic modifications and will carry out illegal experiments with the human genome.

The consequences of such scenario can be far more destructive than we can imagine. As an example, the movie “Splice” shows us one of the possible outcomes of genetic experiments.

So, what decision will be sound? How should the technology be implemented and controlled to avoid harmful consequences?

From an objective point, a proper approach to genetic modification and the adequate control of the implementation can enhance the resistance of the humanity against the diseases, that cannot be cured. If this happens, cancer will really be just a word, not a sentence.

We insist, that GM should be used only to devastate the diseases and disorders, but not to customize the appearance and talents of the human.

And finally: what is your opinion about the genetic engineering and the possibility of creating a designer baby?

Share your thoughts, let us debate.