Throughoutour evolution we have relied on natural selection to make the changes in ourgenetic makeup. However, scientist have just recently discovered a way for usto change that. One of the rising new innovations in today’s modern society isthe use of genetic engineering.
Since the discovery of DNA and its storage ofgenetic makeup, we have the capability of altering genes to create newsubstances or new functions. With the invention of CRISPR-cas9, a gene editingdevice, it has made this process simple. The whole idea of genetic engineeringis removing a damaged strand of DNA and repairs it with a copy of DNA fromanother source not from that organism to enhance the capabilities of it. This resultsin an enhanced version of that organism.
Since genetic engineering is a recentdiscovery, it has only been tested on animals, plants, and medicine, but notyet humans. Also, because genetic engineering is in its initial stages, manypeople are more concerned of the dangers that this can bring to our society inthe future. There are many ethical and moral consideration that comes to placewith this new advancement and how we decide to approach it.
Although geneticengineering has its benefits in our society, the negative consequences thatcould possibly be acquired poses a great ethical issues to our society. Gene editing has shed a light ofhope to our society in areas such as medicine and in agriculture. For example,the genetic disorder known as sickle cell might be one of the first diseases tobe cured by genetic engineering. In the UnitedStates, roughly 100,000 people have sickle cell disease, most of them living ashort life around 40 to 60 years of age (Mullin). The thing about sicklecell disease is that it’s rooted in a person’s genes, meaning that diseases areinvoluntary, and scientist can’t do anything about it because its inheritedthrough the parents. However, in recentexperiments with patients, scientist discovered that 85 percent of the damagedgenes could be successfully edited and transformed to create new healthy redblood cells (Mullin). This significantly would eliminate patients whosuffer from sickle cell worldwide.
With the use of genetic engineering, we canpossibly cure most human related genetic disorders. That would be a hugebenefit for patients dealing with these types of diseases, but it’s somethingthat rarely been done in medical research. Obviously using genetic engineeringfor diseases is a true no brainer, because this can result in a society wheredisease practically doesn’t exist anymore.
Aside from being used in medicalresearch, genetic engineering has already had its benefits in agriculture. With the use of genetic engineering, it enablesscientist to produce crops that are resistant to herbicides, take a longeramount of time to ripen, and produce more yield and profit (“Genetic Engineering”).This is very important to our society because humans main source of energy isacquired through foods. With the demand of food constantly increasing, it isimportant to maintain the population with more food.
But keeping up with thehigh demand isn’t as simple because it takes way too long to naturallycultivate and produce crops. Therefore, genetic engineering was tested on foodsand animals to produce more mass production. Using genetic engineering toenhance crops to produce more, ultimately revolutionizes agriculture.
No longerwould we be dealing with old traditional practices of agriculture, we wouldtake agriculture and allow genetic engineering to enhance it. Geneticengineering has made significant advances in both medicine and agriculturewhich in just a short amount of time has positively impacted our society. Aside from the benefits of it,genetic engineering can change the overall societal perspective on disabledpeople. Genetic engineering is on its way to enhancing the lives of manydisabled humans through fixing common disabilities found at birth. AlthoughCRISPR would only be used to cure “serious diseases,” in the future it could beused to prevent all disabilities known to us. Although this is an obviousbenefit, most disabled people won’t be benefiting from the use of geneticengineering due to their low economic status.
Infact, from the years of 2000 to 2013, the unemployment rate for disabled peoplehas grown nearly 80 percent (Cameron). So, in this matter, disabledpeople won’t be able to benefit from the use of gene editing. The innovation ofgene editing would bring inequity to disabled people because they are not ableto afford it. “Some people withdisabilities eagerly await gene therapies. But many people are concerned thatthe increasing use of genetic technologies in this context reflects andreinforces societal assumptions that disability is always harmful and should beprevented (Benjamin).” As we broaden the capacity to be able to control diseases,the problem comes when there are assumptions of which lives are worth keepingor not in this planet. And to guarantee a world where optimal health isprevalent, most of the disabled people would fall in the category of thosehumans who should be discarded off society.
Ultimately, with the innovation ofgenetic technologies, the concern is that disabled people would fall in a lessvalued class in our society. This creates a new level of discrimination andprejudice that is placed on the lives of disabled people. Ableism, which is aview that disabled people are inferior to those who are able-bodied, willcontinue to grow and perhaps get worse, disempowering those who are affected bydisabilities. All in all, the innovations of genetic engineering make usreflect on the ethical issues that perhaps could affect disabled people in thefuture.