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Genetic Engineering

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Genetic Engineering

Everyday science and new technology are digging their roots deeper into society. Biotechnology is expanding continuously with new fields of research. Genetic engineering has swallowed today's world and many people don't even realize it. Genetically modified foods are in our diets and on the shelves in the supermarket. We are being introduced to new types of food, ones that are more healthy and fresh than before. This modifying process is taking place in biotechnical laboratories all over the world, where scientists study which genes are strong and which ones are weak. They then slice and dice these genes, sandwich them in any order, and pack them "to go".

With gene splicing these special scientists are on the verge of modifying certain foods to become "prefect". Not only are we altering foods but also animals. Labs are genetically altering animals to become more adaptive to their testing need. Rats without immune systems or pigs that carry a gene for growth hormones and show significant improvement in weight gain and reduced fat. With genetic engineering we as humans could respond to diseases before they become a threat. A person's entire gene makeup could be mapped out before they are even born. This in turn raises many controversial issues such as gene discrimination and "human perfecting". Through the gene makeup we are able to help prevent and cure many diseases, however, life and health insurance companies could use this map to make more money off the individuals who are more likely to become sick.

The world of biotechnology is huge, but scientists are only beginning to explore the dangers and benefits of genetic engineering and it is going to become a very mainstream part of our lives.


"Genetic Engineering, or gene splicing is the scientific alteration of the structure of genetic material in a living organism. It involves the production and use of recombinant DNA and has been employed to create bacteria that synthesize insulin and other human proteins" (Source 1). Genetic engineering allows scientists to take the genes of one species and combine them with those of another. Which essentially means that they have the power to completely re-modify an existing creature or even create an entirely new species. This is obviously going to be one of the more controversial issues when it comes to gene splicing because in a way the scientists, through biotechnical means, are playing the role of God. Unfortunately, the concept of playing God means different things to different people. For some it may have nothing to do with God at all. They are simply expressing awe and wonder at the power that humans can wield over nature. For some Christians, however, the notion of playing God carries a pietistic view of God's realm of activity versus that of the human race. In this context, playing God means performing tasks that are reserved for God and God alone. If this is what genetic technology does, then the concerns about playing God are justified. But what is often being reflected in this perspective is that God acts where we are ignorant and it should stay that way (Source 2).

Anti-genetic-engineering activists say that with current recombinant technology there is no way to ensure that genetically modified organisms will remain under control, and the use of this technology outside of secure laboratory environments carries unacceptable risks for the future. They feel that certain crops, like natural or wild corn maybe be affected by the spreading pollination of the genetically modified corn. These plants will then need treated with "relevant herbicide to the extent that there are no wild plants ('weeds') able to survive" causing the wild insects to eventually die. And as of a chain of events cause other types of wildlife (such as birds), which are dependent on these insects to also decline. However, proponents of current genetic techniques as applied to food plants cite the benefits that the technology can have, for example, in the harsh agricultural conditions of third world countries. They say that with modifications, existing crops would be able to thrive under the relatively hostile conditions providing much needed food to their people (Source 3).

There are many different advantages and disadvantages with regards to genetic engineering, including numerous basic views that can affect our lives as Christians and the nature that surrounds us all.


Genetic engineering began in the laboratory of Paul Berg, a Stanford University biochemist, in the winter of 1972-1973. Berg removed a gene from SV40 (Simian Virus 40), a monkey virus that could cause caner in mice. Through laborious chemical manipulation, he attached to it a short piece of single-stranded DNA. He then opened up the small, circular genome of another virus, lambda, and attached a chain of single-stranded chains "stick ends" because any such chain will attach itself to another strand with a complementary base sequence (a sequence in which all the bases in the second chain will pair with those in the first). Taking advantage of this "stickiness," Berg spliced the gene from SV40 into the lambda genome. This was the first production of recombinant DNA, or DNA into which other DNA from a different type of organism has been inserted.

Berg's technique for gene splicing would have been hard to apply on a mass scale, but the same was not true of a second technique developed shortly afterward by Stanley Cohen and Herbert Boyer. Unlike Berg, Cohen and Boyer were working with bacteria and together completed the puzzle. Cohen had invented a technique for removing plasmids ("small single rings of DNA in which a bacterium's genes are carried") from one bacterial cell and inserting them into another. Boyer, for his part, was working with bacteria called Escherichia coli (E. coli for short), which commonly and usually harmlessly live in the human intestine. Cohen and Boyer realized that if they applied Boyer's E. coli restriction enzyme, EcoR1, to Cohen's plasmids, they would have a way to cut open a plasmid from one species of bacteria and, with the help of a ligase, splice it onto a plasmid from another species. In addition to plasmids, Boyer, Cohen, and other scientists were soon using viruses as vectors, or transmission agents, for inserting foreign genes into bacteria and, later, plant and animal cell. With that the gene age had begun (Source 4).

Issues concerning the safety of genetic engineering experiments and genetically altered organisms began



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