Genetic Engineering and Eugenics in Biotechnology

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Even with its usefulness, genetic engineering has been a very controversial topic. The artificial transfer of genes has had various concerns with critics, citing the possible unforseen results on human and environment that contributes making genetic engineering with all its life altering effects to be a problematic subject (Marshall, 2007, p.113).
Genetic modification also reduces the role of the natural environment in increasing diversity, and this raises concern that the eugenic concept of the superiority of the genome may cause some species to go extinct. The induction of genes from some viral vectors in treating heritable conditions is a very important concern because some functional segments that replace the dangerous mutations can become virulent and can cause unknown health issues. Despite the shortcomings, the genetic enhancements have immense benefits in addressing challenges facing humanity. Like the Agrarian revolution, genetic modification is a shakeup technology in the food production. It reduces the indiscriminate use of pesticides and fertilizers, and thus levels of pollution. Nevertheless, most benefits are in the health sector where the biotechnology applications offer a promising future in not only addressing the pharmaco-medical issues but also realizing the pharmaco-economical aspirations. This discussion seeks to focus on the significance of genetic modification, with the focus is its irreplaceable and irrefutable relevance in addressing challenges that have been a threat to the humanity. A key focus will be the importance of biotechnology in industries, research work, agriculture, and medicine.
While it still surrounded by many controversies, genetic engineering has remained one of the most transformative scientific ideas in the 21st century. One of the most significant benefits has been supporting the realization of the eugenic concept of desirable characteristic, where genetic modification has replaced the tedious selective breeding. The genetic modification entails the transfer of desirable features using CRISPR-Cas9, a technology that allows epigenome editing and replacing chunks of DNA (Turksen, 2016, p.38). While the editing of genes amounts to eugenics in some degree, biotechnology does not alter diversity that has always defined the evolution of species. Instead, it seeks to complement the continuous changes in the genome that arise from environmental pressures. The observation stems from the fact that genetic engineering moves away from the idea of improving organisms through controlled breeding popularized by social Darwinists (Araki, & Ishii, 2015). Unlike the genocidal eugenics where the focus was eliminating negative traits based on racial ideas as the case of fascist regimes during the Second World War and the U.S sterilization policies of the 1940s, the altering of the DNA blueprint in biotechnology seeks to address genetic frailties that make organisms vulnerable (Capella, 2015).
Rather than eliminating some species from the gene pool, the development only encourages desirable features and suppresses negative ones. The technology has been enhancing the diversionary concept of evolution as witnessed in the contemporary setting, where genetic modification has produced milestone advancements in many areas. The human-led evolution has resulted in medical fantasies, where genetic modification has produced high-flying possibilities of improving human health. Genetic modification has allowed production of medical products such as hormones, drugs, and vaccine (Newman & Cragg, 2007). One of the earliest benefits is in the pharmaceutical industry, where the biotechnology technique of gene splicing allowed large-scale production of insulin using E. coli bacteria. The technology has been replicated in the manufacture of interferon, a product that has found tremendous relevance in cancer treatment (Morgan et al., 2013). Genetic engineering has also been critical in the manufacture of urokinase and tissue plasminogen activator used in the management of cardiovascular conditions such as stroke. Genetically engineered yeasts and bacteria are also useful in the production of human growth hormone used in treating stunted growth and dwarfism.
Another health benefit is gene therapy, where manipulation of DNA strands is being used in treating terminal genetic disorders and diseases. The correction of chromosol aberrations has been in use since the 1990s, where it has been utilized in treating cancer, autoimmune diseases, some forms of cancer linked to heritability, cystic fibrosis, as well as conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer, and high cholesterol. While it’s yet to be achieved, genetic engineering has also offered a promising future in addressing autism spectrum disorder (Nurnberger & Berrettini, 2012, p.391). Scientists are also exploring possible alterations in the human genome to slow the aging process. Genetically engineered crops have also addressed malnutrition among poor households. The achievement is typified by the introduction of Vitamin A and protein in rice, a case that has reduced incidences of nutritional disorders such as blindness.
Another area that has benefitted from the manipulation of the genome is agriculture, where crops as DNA editing have produced crops that can withstand harsh weather conditions as well as environmental challenges (Graham, 2009). The importance is best exemplified by the viticulture technology, where biotechnologists have engineered disease-resistant and cold-hardy hybrid grape varieties such as vinifera vineyards. The development has allowed wine industries to expand to colder areas that did not previously grow grapes such as Minnesota and Ontario. The same fête has also been achieved in drylands, where the development of drought-resistant food crop varieties will allow the globe curb the concern of food insecurity. The genetically modified food crops are also pest-resistant, a move that complements efforts being adopted to step-up global yields.
Another agricultural benefit linked to genetic engineering is the concept of controlled maturation, where scientists have introduced foods that grow faster, making seasonality an insignificant issue in food production (Matas, Gapper, Chung, Giovannoni, & Rose, 2009). The alternation of the genome has also resulted in the minimal use of synthetic inputs such as pesticides and fertilizers, making the concept of organic food production a reality. Addition desirable features also make the crops have been keeping quality and nutritional value, as witnessed in the genetically engineered tomatoes. While traditionally the fruit crop is best known as a source of vitamin, genetic modification has resulted in adding proteins, a totality element that has also been achieved in rice production.
The ability of genetically modified crops that can withstand harsh weather environments and mature quickly has resulted in the minimal use of chemicals such as pesticides and insecticides. The achievement has multifaceted effects on conservation efforts and human health, as it has addressed the historical issue of bioaccumulation. The residues of inorganic materials have reduced, making genetic engineering even more critical in environmental safety. Genetic engineering has supported sustainable development, where minimal use of chemicals in food production allows scientist to retain the natural order of the environment (Abrol, 2013). Phytoremediation using genetically engineered organisms has also found tremendous relevance in environmental cleaning, where plants and bacteria are used in breaking heavy metals and oil in contaminated water and soils. The concentrations of inorganic materials in soil and water supplies will continue reducing, resulting in improvement of the general health of the global population.
The recombinant micro-organisms produced through genetic modification has also found tremendous relevance in industries. Such is the case of bacteria that devour oil slicks used in cleaning inhabitable sites because of toxic wastes. Genetically engineered microbes have turned industries to powerhouses, where they are being used in biomining and biofuels.
In conclusion, there is a need for continuous support of research in genetic modification, as the technology has far-reaching benefits in all areas of human life. Biotechnology has addressed the economic consciousness that previously faced food production and pharmaceutical sectors, where artificial modification of genetic makeup has allowed food crops to grow faster, last longer, taste better, and provide more nutrients. Research work has revolutionized agriculture practices in many parts of the globe, where plant technologists have utilized genetic modification to improve traditional crops such as corn, tomatoes, rice, and soybeans. They have also enhanced the quality of milk and meat in animal production, attempts that induce realism in efforts being made to feed the ever-soaring global population. The CRISPR technology remains an area of unlimited medical possibilities in prevention and treatment of mitochondrial diseases and disorders. Genetic modification has also been complementing sustainable development and conservation efforts.

References

Abrol, D. P. (Ed.). (2013). Integrated pest management: current concepts and ecological perspective. Academic Press.
Araki, M., & Ishii, T. (2015). Towards social acceptance of plant breeding by genome editing. Trends in plant science, 20(3), 145-149.
Capella, V. B. (2015). Biotechnology, Ethics, and Society: The Case of Genetic Manipulation. In New Perspectives on Technology, Values, and Ethics (pp. 123-143). Springer International Publishing.
Graham, M. E. (2009). Sustainable agriculture: A Christian ethic of gratitude. Wipf and Stock Publishers.
Matas, A. J., Gapper, N. E., Chung, M. Y., Giovannoni, J. J., & Rose, J. K. (2009). Biology and genetic engineering of fruit maturation for enhanced quality and shelf-life. Current opinion in biotechnology, 20(2), 197-203.
McElhatton, A., & Marshall, R. (2007). Food Safety: A Practical and Case Study Approach (1st ed., p. 113). New York: Springer.
Morgan, R. A., Chinnasamy, N., Abate-Daga, D. D., Gros, A., Robbins, P. F., Zheng, Z., ... & Hughes, M. S. (2013). Cancer regression and neurologic toxicity following anti-MAGE-A3 TCR gene therapy. Journal of immunotherapy (Hagerstown, Md.: 1997), 36(2), 133.
Newman, D. J., & Cragg, G. M. (2007). Natural Products as Sources of New Drugs over the Last 25 Years⊥. Journal of natural products, 70(3), 461-477.
Nurnberger Jr, J. I., & Berrettini, W. (2012). Principles of Psychiatric Genetics. Cambridge University Press.
Turksen, K. (2016). Genome editing (1st ed., p. 38). New York: Springer.

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