Ethics in Genetic Engineering


When a gene of interest is incorporated into the genome of an organisms the gene expresses to produce its traits. The inclusion of the gene changes the whole genetic constitution of the organism which brings phenotypic alteration in the organism. This shows that it can change the characteristics, behaviour or functioning (both internal and external) of the organism. This is against the law to change the genetic make up of an organism by the application of genetic engineering for our profit. It is strictly restricted to follow certain rules for applying genetic engineering in Human, Animals and plants. This are known as ethics of Genetic engineering.


Ethics of Genetic Engineering in plants:

In case of plants legal issues are not so much and mostly the techniques are applied to improve the productivity, mass production, increase the nutritive values of the fruits of the plants etc which ultimately are economically beneficial for the society. Recombinant DNA technology is now widely used commercially for agricultural advancement and also for the wellbeing of the society. Many researches are going on worldwide in the genetic engineering for improve variety of plants. But before the use of biotechnologically modified crops it is very important to detect if it is having any harmful effects on human being. There are many controversies regarding the genetically modified crops. Genetically modified foods have been linked to an increase in the development of allergies in children. science has proven that a genetically modified soybean strain had lower levels of beneficial nutrients that may help protect against heart disease and cancer. science has proven that a genetically modified soybean strain had lower levels of beneficial nutrients that may help protect against heart disease and cancer. This is obviously an ethical issue because if we are increasing yield but decreasing nutritional value at the same time, we may actually end up hurting people in the long run even if we save them in the short term by giving them something to eat. Farmers are not happily accepting genetically modified crops.

Ethics of genetic Engineering of animals:

Genetic Engineering in animals are done with the same purpose to bring improved character in animals which will be useful for us. The genetic engineering of animals has increased significantly in recent years, and the use of this technology brings with it ethical issues, some of which relate to animal welfare — defined by the World Organisation for Animal Health as “the state of the animal…how an animal is coping with the conditions in which it lives”. As a result of the extra challenges that genetically engineered animals bring, governing bodies have started to develop relevant policies, often calling for increased vigilance and monitoring of potential animal welfare impacts (MacArthur JA 2006). Genetic engineering can produce genetically identical individual who are known as clones. This is done by taking the cell of an animal and culturing it invitro. This technology could be applied to either extinct or endangered species; for example, there have been plans to clone the extinct thylacine and the woolly mammoth (West C 2006). But unnecessary production of clone is definitely a ethical issue as it brings disasters if we try to dictate the natural system in the universe. The purpose of genetic engineering in farm animals is to increase their productivity, create disease resistance variety etc. Ethical issues, including concerns for animal welfare, can arise at all stages in the generation and life span of an individual genetically engineered animal.

Ethics of genetic engineering in Human: The significant ethical consideration is on genome editing in human. Many people have moral and religious objections to the use of human embryos for research. Federal funds cannot be used for any research that creates or destroys embryos. In addition, NIH does not fund any use of gene editing in human embryos. It has been argued that ethics and governance debates should go beyond the imperative of clinical innovation by paying attention to respect for human rights and dignity and by carefully considering unknown consequences for gene-edited people and future generations, both in terms of safety and possible eugenic uses of this technology (Pollack R 2015). Lander ES (2015) suggested the availability of safer and more ethically acceptable means of preventing congenital genetic defects, such as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. Human genome editing can be done for somatic cell or germline cell

Somatic Genome editing and the ethical issues: Somatic genome editing involves editing of all somatic cell of human except reproductive cell(gametes) and the cells that produce the gametes. Somatic genome editing enables targeted editing in patients’ cells of genes responsible for hereditable monogenic disorders, infectious diseases and cancer (Brokowski C 2019). It is envisaged as a possible future treatment for patients affected by HIV (Huang Z 2017); progressive blindness (Lander ES 2015); haemophilia (George LA 2017); cancer. (Wei C 2018); sickle-cell anaemia (. Wen J 2017); and cystic fibrosis (Schwank G, 2013) among other conditions. The idea of making genetic changes to somatic cells, referred to as gene therapy, is not new,1 and considerable progress has been made over the past several decades toward clinical applications of gene therapy to treat disease (Cox et al., 2015; Naldini, 2015). Hundreds of early-stage and a small number of late-stage trials are under way (Mullin, 2016), although only two gene therapies have been approved as of late 2016 (Reeves, 2016).

Although somatic gene therapy have wider application in the treatment of various disease but it is very important to control unauthorised application of gene therapy as somatic genome editing could be used to revert an underlying genetic mutation to a variant not associated with disease, which would result in a fraction of the targeted cells regaining normal function.This is a major ethical which has to be taken ito consideration and u ethics are required to be followed so that unnecessary somatic genome editing is not practiced in the society

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Germline genome editing and the ethical issues: Germline genome editing leads to serial bioethical issues, such as the occurrence of undesirable changes in the genome, from whom and how informed consent is obtained, and the breeding of the human species (eugenics). Some of the ethical dilemmas of genome editing in the germline arise from the fact that changes in the genome can be transferred to the next generations. Therapeutic genome editing in somatic cells generally does not cause significant concerns when assessing the risk/benefit balance and the use of informed consent. One of the important bioethical issues is side effects in embryos. It is pointed out that the possible side effects cannot be predicted before birth and the consequences are not clearly known (Otieno, 2015; Brokowski, 2018). Controls can only be performed in a small group of cells. This limitation causes the effects of genome editing on embryos to be unknown and unprevented until birth. In fact, it should be considered that it may take years for many potential problems to emerge (Lanphier et al., 2015; Halpern et al., 2019).

Conclusions: Although the advancement in the field of genetic engineering is bringing new hope in various field but it is very important to follow ethics when such a technology is applied in living organism. Genetic engineering is used to cure many diseases in human and researches are going on in this field which will bring more changes in the future. In case of plants and animals improved variety and quality production is helping the society .But we have to restrict our use and follow ethics so that it will not challenge the normal phenomenon that happens or else it will bring disasters in the earth


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