Pros and Cons of Genetic Engineering


Writing as essay on some controversial medical topics, a genetic engineering essay in particular, is a fascinating experience, as it is a chance to go beyond popular myths or better said popular ignorance about something, which already defines the future of the humanity.

If you start to search “genetic engineering”, you will get millions of results, but many of these sources are not credible or give very little information, while lots of them are too confusing and too boring for a student (I have worked with many, I know). Thus, I have compiled for you the list of genetic engineering articles, which are the most helpful when you want to make sense of the topic and write an informed essay on pros and cons of genetic engineering  or ethics of genetic engineering. I will briefly summarize each article or TED talk so that you easily see the point when reading the original text. Still, you may just cite a couple of ideas in your genetic engineering essay without reading the original in full. I will give tips on how to develop the provided information into an argument and will show you the way to cite sources in APA.             

Genetic Engineering Essay

Let’s make it clear that genetic engineering may refer to the genetic alteration of plantsanimals, and humans. Genetic modification of animals seems to get the least resistance, as it looks like a logical continuation of breeding, which has been known for centuries. At the same time, considering how the increase in the world’s population rises and the land to grow food diminishes – genetic alteration of plants is also seen as a good solution, which makes the survival of human (over)population possible. However, the two types of genetic engineering have their own controversies. This includes not only the usual “playing Gods” opposition but also arguments against exploitation and issues with adding of human genes to plants and animals in particular (Yes, indeed, since human genes are added to tomatoes and pepper, “one can now be a vegetarian and a cannibal at the same time”, as Parta and Andrew reviewed further have put it). Although the compiled sources touch upon these types of genetic engineering, they primarily deal with genetic engineering in humans, embryos in particular.

This speech both explaining the CRISP technology (developed in 2012, it pushed genetic engineering to the new level making it cheap, easy, and much more precise) and highlighting the unintended consequences, which might come, will lead you into the discourse. Kahn acknowledges that genetic engineering has great potential hazards, but it means it should be debated, not banned, because diseases and illnesses are not potential, they are real and exist now and they have to be tackled.   

how to cite (APA)

in-text: Kahn (2016) considers … .

Kahn, J. (2016). Jennifer Kahn:  Gene editing can now change the species – forever. [Video file]. Retrieved from address.

Pros and Cons of Genetic Engineering Articles

Human, Social, and Environmental Impacts of Human Genetic Engineering

The peer-reviewed article by Patra and Andrew gives a concise but very informative overview of the pros and cons of genetic engineering. Among the advantages of genetic engineering is that it is currently curing cystic fibrosis, diabetes, Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (“Bubble Boy” disease), and is capable of curing other deadly diseases. Editing genes eliminating illnesses and diseases in unborn children (germ cells) means that the gene will be passed on and, with time, we can no longer hear of these diseases at all.  

Interesting Gene Engineering Facts

However, there are also a lot of hazards involving all three types of genetic engineering: 

Gene engineering in plants

Genetically engineered plants have antibiotic-resistance genes, which are used by engineers as a market to see whether the alteration has occurred. As a result, the effect of antibiotics may be lower when consuming genetically modified food.

Gene engineering in animals

Genetically modified organisms can imbalance the ecology. Genetic modification may cause harm to animals (For example, cows do become to milk more, but are more susceptible to mastitis, lameness, and infertility). If there is some accidental release of not-fully tested species or mistakes in genetic engineering in humans would have devastating outcomes.   

Gene engineering in humans

In humans, there is still no precision concerning where the functional genes are placed, so that they may even replace some important genes instead of the mutated ones. This can have unpredictable results and cause even more health issues. Once the altered gene is placed, the process cannot be reversed.

Other concerns

Ethical questions also arise concerning the forms, into which human cells are placed, including the question of how ethical it is to consume vegetables or meat with human cells. What is more, there is a hazard that new biological weapons will be created using the technology.

The authors finish reassuring that despite the concerns, the potential of genetic engineering is so tremendous that it is definitely worth debating and researching.         

how to cite (APA)

in-text: Ethical questions also arise concerning the forms, into which human cells are placed (Patra & Andrew, 2015).

Patra S. & Andrew A.A. (2015). Human, social, and environmental impacts of human genetic engineering. Journal of Biomedical Science 4(2). Retrieved from address.

Overview of Gene Therapy and Genetic Engineering by University of Missouri Curators

More pros and cons of genetic engineering are mentioned in the overview of gene therapy by the University of Missouri curators. The article begins with a detailed consideration of the terminology: genetic engineering for therapeutic purposes is specifically a “gene therapy”, while the very “genetic engineering” has enhancement as its aim (not to cure but to correct).   

Arguments in favor of genetic engineering: 

(1) The primary advantage is the chance to cure diseases and genetically inherited disorders. (2) Genetically engineered bacteria and other microorganisms are already used to produce human insulin and human growth hormone, which is widely used for blood clotting and in pharmaceuticals. (3) In addition, people already try to enhance their health and appearance by diets, cosmetics and even plastic surgery, why should improving through genetics be banned then? (4) Another argument is that choice of a mate is already a choice of genes for future babies, so reproductive freedom should also presuppose freedom to decide on the genes of a child through other available means too.  

Arguments against gene therapy:

(1) it is too dangerous (this includes immediate deletion of important genes and unforeseen long-term effects), (2) it discriminates people with disabilities, who need to be treated as normal, not made normal, (3) there is no need to correct genes in reproductive cells as if there is a hazard to inherit the serious disease, in vitro selection may be used.  

Arguments against genetic engineering:

(1) it is against nature and pure “creationism”, (2) it is dehumanizing and may make people suffer from confused identities, (3) as new technology becomes obsolete very soon, so new genes, which are “in demand” now may become obsolete very soon; (4) improving the genetics of a human race is a new form of eugenics reminiscing of Nazi Germany.

how to cite (APA)

in-text: There is a distinction between gene therapy and gene engineering (Curators of the University of Missouri, 2018).

Curators of the University of Missouri (2018). Gene therapy and genetic engineering. Retrieved from address.

Ethics of Human Genetic Modification (Op-Ed)

The LifeScience op-ed by Stephanie Saulter is a great help for writing a genetic engineering essay, as it refutes the most popular counter-arguments to genetic engineering provided by ethicists, and also serves a great example of a persuasive essay.

Gene Modification Facts for an Essay

Saulter builds her argument by showing steps people already take (with a greater or lower degree of public acceptance) to ensure the birth of healthy children. These steps range from changing lifestyle during pregnancy to making choices during in-vitro fertilization, preimplantation tissue typing (presupposes taking the cord blood from a healthy newborn to cure the sick sibling), and finally eradicating mitochondrial disease, which results in so-called “three-parent children” being born. Explaining in easy terms what the procedure behind the last stands, the author shows there is nothing really to object to (birth mother’s faulty mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) is substituted with healthy mDNA from a donor egg and then fertilized by father’s sperm), even though it is already a genetic modification in humans, which is inheritable.  

Of course, mitochondrial replacement is unnatural. But so are IVF, organ transplants, prosthetic limbs and injectable insulin. If we were sanguine about the way that nature and circumstance ravage our fragile bodies, we’d never have invented medicine. And, of course, we can’t predict with 100 percent certainty what will happen in the future as a result of the actions we take now. We never could. When has that ever stopped us? Why should it?

The author further tells that the “designer babies” scenario still requires much research and resources to become possible and there is little chance that people will refuse from the diversity they appreciate so much now, so it makes no sense to ban genetic engineering research. What is more, Saulter believes it is a tool that can once save people from extinction and any taboos are dismantled when survival is at stake.    

how to cite (APA)

in-text: Any taboos are dismantled when survival is at stake (Saulter, 2014). 

Saulter, S. (2014). Trusting the future? Ethics of human genetic modification (Op-Ed). LifeScience. Retrieved from address.

The Ethical Dilemma of “Designer Babies”

In the great TedTalk, a  biologist Paul Knoepfler, on the contrary, claims there should be a moratorium on the creation of genetically modified people because it is too dangerous and unpredictable and because the public has not been informed about it well enough. Knoepfler brings up the problem of the lack of any regulation of genetic engineering in humans in many countries and does a great job of helping to visualize the impact of the vast application of gene engineering. He also speaks of genetic engineering as a form of gentle eugenics that may cause deep trauma to some humans. Another hazard he mentions is that governments may compel citizens to genetic modification if GM people prove to have lower healthcare costs (China’s one-baby policy shows such interference is possible).

how to cite (APA)

in-text: Paul Knoepfler (2015) considers there should be a moratorium on the creation of genetically modified people.  

Knoepfler, P. (2015). Paul Knoepfler: The ethical dilemma of designer babies. [Video file]. Retrieved from address. 

Other Facts on Gene Therapy and Genetic Engineering in Humans 

Here is the source telling how gene therapy helped the dying boy survive by providing a replacement skin.

how to cite (APA)

in-text: Gene therapy helped the dying boy survive (Grady, 2017). 

Grady, D. (2017). Gene therapy creates replacement skin to save a dying boy. The New York Times. Retrieved from address. 

This source tells that in 2016, the UK has become the first country to allow gene engineering in human embryos for research. Researchers are not allowed to implant embryos and have to destroy them after seven days of research (this may be discussed separately as an ethical problem, as abortion opponents widely argue that embryos are humans and should not be killed to order).

how to cite (APA)

in-text: UK has become the first country to allow gene engineering in human embryos (Mohdid, 2016). 

Mohdid, A. (2016). The UK has become the first country to license genetic modification of human embryos. Quartz. Retrieved from address. 

The source tells how a teenage boy has built his own lab and experiments with CRISP technology on his kitchen, while a research team from the Alberta uni bought in the internet fragments of DNA and created a horsepox, a deadly virus resembling smallpox, without any interference or control of the officials. Thus, the author argues that regulators rely on outdated frameworks and fail to regulate new technologies: while academic researchers are scrutinized, underground experiments, which pose much more threat of leaks and may really cause devastating consequences, are unattended.  

At Home Gene Editing Kit

how to cite (APA)

in-text: Baumgaertner (2018) believes that regulators fail to regulate new technologies. 

Baumgaertner, E. (2018). As D.I.Y. dene editing gains popularity, ‘Someone is Going to get hurt’.  The New York Times. Retrieved from address.

This source calls the 2017 first gene therapy treatment in the US approved by Food and Drug Administration “a new era in medicine” adding that it “is coming faster than most realize — and that perhaps few can afford”. The treatment Kymriah, Emily Whitehead has already successfully received, is spectacularly effective against a rare form of leukemia, brings remissions when all conventional options have failed, and costs $475,000. Health care executives now figure out new payment models for insurers to be able to pay out such a bill and similar prices gene therapy treatments are expected to have.

how to cite (APA)

in-text: The first gene therapy treatment in the US approved by Food and Drug Administration costs $475,000 (Kolata, 2017). 

Kolata, G. (2017). New gene-therapy treatments will carry whopping price tags. The New York Times. Retrieved from address.

I hope the reviewed articles helped you to make sense of the pros and cons of genetic engineering and write a successful genetic engineering essay. If you feel like your presentation of ideas is inconsistent and might need editing or you want your essay to be professionally proofread, go to the services page or message me right away. Please, leave your comments if you found the post helpful!   

About the Author: Roselyn

Hi, I am Roselyn and love engaging, fit for purpose, and edited to perfection writing. Feel free to reach out to work with me, suggest topic ideas, or give feedback on Make a Stand – the project I passionately grow for more than 3 years now.

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