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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Genetic engineering and gene manipulation; good or bad for future society?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (21560 points ) December 14th, 2009

Some form of gene manipulation is happening all about us today, making fruit seedless, causing them to grow to monsterous proportions, and crossing them with other fruit to make a more potent fruit of vegetable. It is happening with designer cats and hybrid dogs, you have here of a Cockapoo or a Schnoodle have you? At some point being able to control aspects of your unborn child will be possible. When that time come will it be more to the benefit to society by having kids less susceptible to being obese, ill, and learn quicker. Will society be more harmed because the “enhanced” people will be picked and chosen more then the “natural” people creating an unenhanced subclass?

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40 Answers

HighShaman's avatar

I think it is BAD for society in general .

Your children should come as they were meant to come ; NOT as they are designed .

..

randomness's avatar

I think that this will have both positive and negative effects on out society. it’s a mixed basket.

ragingloli's avatar

Good for society. And we have been doing it since humanity started farming and domesticating animals. Today’s methods are just faster, more direct and more efficient. And we need it. How else are we going to meet the demand in food by increasing human populations and countries that are on the verge of becoming 2nd or 1st world countries that, while being content with low quality, inexpensive food such as rice and bread, will want to have more and better options? We need genetic engineering to make crops yield more harvest, to make them suitable in different climates, to make them resistant against insects. What else are you going to do?

spacemonkey's avatar

proverbial double edged sword.you could do some positive things with it but sooner or later someone will go and do a silly thing and make some frankenstein-esq monster.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@ragingloli Yes, to a point we have been doing it, and will continue doing so. We humans have been at it on a rather passive scale, we had no way to get in there in there on the microbialogical and splice out certain genes are manupulate gene sequences to produce a pest resisant corn crop etc. When times comes we humans can say make a 8,000lb cow with 90% meat we really should. What about developing nations? If a child can be genetically enhanced to grow and fuction the same way as any other child but his/her body uses 85% of the food and nutrients ingested making them just as healthy with 30% less caloric intake and or be resistant to maleria, and other diseases should we not explore that?

laureth's avatar

Selective Breeding: Very good, farmers have been cross-pollenating for as long as they have known how, producing better crops the natural way.

Genetic engineering, artificial gene manipulation: Is not the same as selective breeding, is quite new in the grand scheme, and from what I can tell so far, not so good.

If anyone has an hour and a half to spare in order to see why it’s bad, I recommend this film: The Future of Food on Hulu. This isn’t one of those issues where soundbites explain the whole problem. The devil, as usual, is in the details.

LocoLuke's avatar

I think if advanced carefully, it could easily benefit society. As long as there are regulations in place, and the process and research is closely monitored, there is no reason why we shouldn’t continue trying to advance technology in this area. Personally, I think that genetic engineering should be kept away from reproduction, but we already check babies for certain diseases during gestation. If we could genetically engineer the baby to no longer have the genetic disease its parents have, who are we to make the decision for those parents? It’s more a question of degree than whether it is good or bad, or harmful or beneficial.

keithold's avatar

G’day Hypocrisy Central,

Thank you for your question.

It depends on how it is used. In agriculture, it has proved to be very useful. There are legislative safeguards in place to guard against abuses.

Gene therapy will prove to be very useful in the fight against many diseases. For example, there was a recent instance of stem cell therapy allowing a man in my hometown of Canberra to walk again. link

Regards

laureth's avatar

Legislatures, laws, and regulations can’t stop the bees and wind from moving pollen around. And as long as pollen moves around, we can’t enforce the genes to stay in the place where scientists put them. It’s exactly this thing that is putting wild populations of plants at risk, as well as farmers who didn’t mean to grow genetically engineered crops.

We are already planting monocultures of only a few basic foods, which leaves us open for one adaptive pest or disease to wipe out a lot of the food supply. (Irish potato famine, anyone?) A closer examination of genetically engineered crops shows that they don’t make the situation as much better as people think, and are generally designed, not to help the poor starving people in other countries, but to line the pockets of Big Ag companies like Monsanto. (If it really were done for the good of the world’s subsistence population, farmers would not be forbidden to save their seeds, as farmers have always done, nor would there be any reason to splice in a “suicide gene” that makes seeds infertile and unable to produce another crop.)

Furthermore, many of these crops don’t grow well without heavy applications of chemical pesticide and fertilizer, like anything that calls itself “round-up ready.” Not only are these opportunities mostly for Monsanto to sell its brand-name herbicide, but often third-world farmers don’t have the money to buy endless supplies of Round-Up and new seed every year, so they actually produce less food than if they had stayed with their native crops.

The idea of feeding the world is really warm and fuzzy, and who wouldn’t support that? Unfortunately, these crops are not really designed to do that in reality.

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

Genetic engineering is often seen as negative when associated with food, but there are some benefits to it as well. For instance, certain genes responsible for the production of enzymes that aid in bioremediation are being spliced into many microorganisms. These microorganisms can then be established in areas with high concentrations of contaminants like pesticides, PCB’s, uranium, mining by-products, heavy metals, and other types of contaminants. Genetic engineering of these microorganisms allows for populations that last in contaminated sites for years, are more cost-efficient, and are safer than many other methods of remediation.

As with most other things, genetic engineering comes with upsides and downsides, but that doesn’t mean we should abandon the practice altogether, we just need to be careful about how we modify organisms, and the consequences genetic modification may have.

CMaz's avatar

I say go for it.

laureth's avatar

@jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities – that’s the thing – they’re not being very careful. And even if they are, the unforeseen consequences have already been pretty bad.

Alrook's avatar

Genetic engineering and gene manipulation will be neither good or bad, much like any other technology it will have the ability to assist in peoples daily live, but it usually has a cost. Nuclear energy has both the potential to provide energy for our daily use or it can be used to destroy human lives – the question is how it is used. Genetic and gene engineering is going to have the benefits of adding nutritional value to foods (more vitamins, flavors, and overall larger fruits for example), but eventually someone will use it as a weapon (historically most major technological achievements are caused by war, or lead to a weapon/advantage of some kind).
If one wanted to stop it…well its a bit too late now, most a nation can do is outlaw its practices – but someone somewhere will eventually find some advantage (be it for military, monetary, or personal gains) and those who are behind will suffer for it. The question is it good or bad would have probably been a better question when the science for it was first theorized, now the question that should be “what exploits can be had with genetic and gene engineering?”

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

@laureth I agree that they’re not being very careful with genetic engineering of food (which is very concerning and poses many significant risks), but in the example of microorganisms that I gave, genetic modification has been and continues to be highly monitored and tested before it is implemented. I have a lot of concerns about the future of genetic engineering, but I don’t think it’s something that we can just completely condemn and abandon.

LocoLuke's avatar

@jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities I do think that they should monitor the genetic engineering of food at the same level that they modify microorganisms.

Genetic engineering does have some very large benefits though, that can’t be denied. Commercially produced Insulin, one of the most basic examples of genetic engineering, is a good example of the role that genetic engineering plays in medicine. Without it, diabetics would have to pay a whole lot more for a drug which is essential to their quality of life. I think that as long as we have specific goals in mind when developing new things, it should be easy to minimize any chance of harm being done. Biological warfare may result from continued research in this area, but that’s already possible with the technology we currently have. You could look at genetic engineering in the same way that we look at nuclear physics. It brought about the atomic bomb, but it also gives us a much deeper understanding of the world we live in as well as some more (arguably) beneficial technologies such as nuclear power plants.
edit: whoops, looks like Alrook had essentially the same point to make as I had. I should read replies more carefully.

Talimze's avatar

It could potentially be used for a lot of different things, so it could be either good or bad. It depends on how far some people want to take it. One must always remember that there are plenty of people in the world who will do things just because they can, or just to see if it’s possible. There’s a lot of room for . . . well, I would say “abominations,” but that word has been milked of all meaning.

jerv's avatar

Overall, I think it’s neutral, but has the potential to go very far in either direction. Sure, it would be nice to cure certain things like Parkinsons, but it may also lead to the end of Autism… which would mean that people like me might never be born.

And if you remove genetic diversity, you also tend to cause other problems. Mutts and American Short-hairs are hardier than pure-bred dogs and cats, and look at the genetic defect royalty used to have. Hell, look at the health problems Cheetahs have!

Here is a related side-thought;

Many societies prefer male children so that someone can inherit the family fortune yadayada, and if they are “cursed” with only daughters then she inherits nothing and it all goes to their son-in-law when she gets married.

Now, if we were allowed to choose the gender of our kids and most people chose to have sons, where would our species be in a few generations? Or would there even be a few more generations?

Chew on that for a second ;)

LocoLuke's avatar

@jerv On autism: If they can find the gene which causes it, then they can potentially correct it. Sure, people could abort a baby with the potential to be autistic, but don’t you think they would much rather use available cure? Do you believe that if you had been cured of autism during gestation through gene therapy, you would be worse off than if you weren’t? Sure, you technically wouldn’t be the same person, but that would be due to the way you were raised without a disorder, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

For the gender issue, I highly doubt that any government would allow gene manipulation that would put the entire population at risk. Gender selection is one thing which would obviously do so, so I’m confident that laws would be passed in order to prevent such a thing. As it is, we already can choose the gender of our children to a certain degree. Various strategies such as attempting conception at certain stages of the menstrual cycle are claimed to have some degree of success, and if a person is desperate, they can probably get a cell sample from a developing baby and determine the combination of sex chromosomes in order determine gender, or simply create the baby using a male sperm and egg in a vial than implant it into the mother in order to ensure gender. No need for genetic engineering there.

ragingloli's avatar

Parent’s might even give their children high functioning autism intentionally, given the genius potential.

LocoLuke's avatar

Depends how advanced technologies get. In the case of autism, they may be able to find a way to keep the genius potential without the harmful side effects. That would, of course, lead to an issue with people who can afford genetic treatment having genius children and people who can’t being marginalized in society due to their “inferiority”. All in all, though, it would just be another advance in technology which has the potential to greatly advance mankind, or to devastate it. I think forbidding people to research into it would be foolish, because eventually somebody will discover it and most likely use it to their personal gain.

ragingloli's avatar

They could mandate public insurance to cover such a voluntary procedure to even out the effect.

jerv's avatar

@LocoLuke I am actually personally OFFENDED by that!

If you think that different means defective then you are not much better than the White Power guys or the Nazis! Besides, if you knew how many great minds either are or are suspected of being autistic (possibly even the scientists that made such technology possible) then you would definitely reconsider.

However, I somehow doubt that you really meant it that way (and thus did not flag your answer) so I will just sit here and bristle while you realize exactly what you really said.

jerv's avatar

@ragingloli The only problem there is that it’s a crap-shoot. The sad fact is that most people (~⅔rds of them) with “regular” Autism are of below-average intelligence (low-functioning) and Aspies are only a fairly small percentage of those with any form of ASD.

LocoLuke's avatar

@jerv I’d like to offer my most sincere apologies. I was typing the first thing that comes to mind, and didn’t really think my answer through. I was referring to autism in which the severity of the condition is a major limit on the person’s ability to live a satisfying life. My line of reasoning was that treating an extreme case of autism in this way could be seen as similar to treating a severe case of ADHD with ritalin.

jerv's avatar

@LocoLuke I figured that which is why I didn’t get terribly upset. I just don’t like people implying that I am somehow genetically inferior, even if such implication is purely accidental.
No hard feelings :)

Oh, and thanks for editing your original answer.

LocoLuke's avatar

@jerv Also, in the post i made referring to “inferiority”, I was talking about normal people who couldn’t afford a genetic treatment, not autistic people. I apologize for not being clear.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

A lot of good stuff for and against, I believe the bottom line eventually it will be here and it comes to how it will be used.

@spacemonkey & @leureth What hasn’t been perverted by government or certain greedy business factions. How many things that could have been used for good that never was? Drone aircraft, it could have been used for search and rescue in hazardous areas or at time where manned flight would not have been safe, same as with fighting fires. No one thought to use it for good in that way.

@Jeffgoldblum There is always the risk of something going wrong or a mishap happening. It happen when they came up with breast implants purely unneeded for most women but done solely out of choice Nuclear power, petro running engines, the auto itself. The thought that people MAY speed, drink and drive, do side shows or other things that make a car deadly should have killed off its creation? Should the car been outlawed because the potential for it to be misused causing death? One can never truly cover all the bases with new technology. Sometimes even under the best testing, care and control things still happen.

I think it is that people get the Whillies when the thought comes to humans being enhanced before birth even if the enhancement is limited to curing a genetic disposition to MS, Crone’s disease, MLS, sickle cell and the likes. People automatically think there will be a new better more perfect generation ala Joseph Mengele that will outwit and surpass those living at the time before the chance to be enhanced. In the passive sense, using and manipulate the tissue of the unborn to benefit the living many people have not real qualms over, even when there could be things associated with that which is yet to be seen, and won’t be until it is used wide spread. Eventually someone is going to do it, be it for profit, or just to push the boundaries of science, but it will happen if mankind doesn’t destroy itself 1st. I hope it is used slightly more for good than some weapon.

Blackberry's avatar

There are pros and cons, but in general progression, especially by science and humanity is very good. Plus…anything is better than the past right?

jerv's avatar

@LocoLuke The financial inequality aspect of it is something I was hoping to avoid getting into since there is enough of a problem with that as it is.
However, imagine if the rich truly were superior; smarter, healthier, stronger….?

LocoLuke's avatar

@jerv that’s one of the possible outcomes I was trying to point out. Certainly a disturbing idea to say the least! I highly doubt that this will ever come to pass, though, because in order to make something like that happen, scientists would require lots of funding, which would mean it won’t come as a surprise to the public. I hope we will be able to plan for such scenarios, and take a path of action which works out better for everyone.

laureth's avatar

@Blackberry – I beg to differ. Some things were better in the past. Farming methods, I believe, are one of them.

LocoLuke's avatar

@laureth I think that’s mostly due to corporate greed though, not the advances in technology. If we allocated our resources differently, things would be much different.

Symbeline's avatar

Would be good for things like medical advancement or agriculture, but I’m guessing we’ll just have a reoccurring of Unity 731.

mattbrowne's avatar

There is no easy answer to this question. There are lots of opportunities and risks. Who doesn’t want a cancer-gene-free baby? But do we want piano players with six fingers per hand? What about old-fashioned traditionally born people? Will their university applications in the music department be denied because they only have five fingers per hand?

I recommend watching the movie called Gattaca.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@mattbrowne I seen that movie and found it quite interesting, even more so now. Lately there has been a lot to do about scanning the brain and detecting which region or area has the most activity, Depending on what part of the brain lights up the scan with activity scientist are suppose to be able to see how much you love your mate, have fear of certain things or condition, and in serial killers what part of the brain has no function or very, very little that should. If science got to the point where they could scan a 1 years olds brain and discover he has the brain activity of 80% of psychopathic serial killers and there was a procedure to alter or treat that either by chemical means or stem cell implantation or manipulation would it be in the best interest of the child and society even if later down the line to do so?

Or parents in which albinism runs in the family line that they could use whatever gene therapy to block the albinism from happening, thus sparing their child teasing and or bullying in school because they would appear different.

jerv's avatar

Or we could abort all unborn children that are not blue-eyed blonds. Like every other human endeavor, corruption remains a distinct possibility.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@jerv Would the possible corruption, or should the possibility of corruption, derail the possible benefits that could be had? To be able to knock out the gene that could cause a child to develope Parkinsons later in life be worth the risk that someone might misuse the science?

jerv's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central Our quest for energy led not only to a replacement for hydro-electric plants, but also to the most horrific weapons humanity owns. The purpose of religion is to bring humanity understanding of a strange universe, but instead we use it as am excuse to kill each other.
I hate to say it, but humanity is good enough at corrupting things that emphasize the dark side or downplay the good that I really don’t think it would be worthwhile. Odds are that Parkinsons would remain uncured due to insurance company greed or FDA red tape while w would get weapons the likes of which have only been imagined by sick minds.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@jerv Odds are that Parkinsons[sic] would remain uncured due to insurance company greed or FDA red tape while w would get weapons the likes of which have only been imagined by sick minds. There hasn’t been an invention yet that has not had or wasn’t bastardize for military purposes. We still have those inventions anyhow. Many do great good in the overall scheme of things. Just because the insurance companies won’t pay for it, or the government here in the US sand bag it, doesn’t mean more enlightened governments like that of Canada, France, or the Kiwis would not hinder it.

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