Farmers are increasingly switching to modified crops. There has been a steady increase since 1994 when the modified crops became increasingly available. Soybeans especially, because the modified version yielded much bigger pods and more importantly are resistant to certain diseases that affect the crops. This resistance to disease is the most important factor to most farmers in deciding to switch.
I personally feel that genetically altered crops are a great resource for us in this country. Being able to grow and sell food cheaply is a staple in our economic future.
Farm animals are also currently being genetically modified all the time. My family use to raise chickens for our own use, and we had two coops, one coop for regular egg laying chickens, and the other coop for modified chickens for their meat. The modified chickens developed breasts much earlier and much bigger than typical chickens and they also aged faster so we could grow two generations in a year. This advantage helped us to save on food bills and made life just a bit easier for our big family.
There are negatives to cloning and genetic modification as well. For example, with farming, the crops are modified to resist certain diseases but if a new disease shows up, there isn’t enough genetic diversity to resist it and entire crops may be lost. It would also make them more vulnerable to new types of mites and other pests. There is some concern that the modification could affect those who eat the crops but no scientific data has shown this to be the case.
A similar problem arises with genetically modified animals, a certain cow may have a susceptibility to a certain illness and if it is used as a cloning parent, that susceptibility will be passed on to all its clones. A similar susceptibility can be created by modifying the DNA of the animal. The scientist modifying might accidentally make a certain weakness in the animal that won’t be made apparent until the animal reaches maturity.
Genetic diversity is kind of the battle cry for those against cloning. In normal cases, when a disease comes around, some animals will die from it, some will get sick, and some will not be affected at all. Those not affected will pass on their stronger DNA to the next generation. With cloning, if a disease comes around all the animals will be affected in the same way, for good or ill. It may mean the elimination of an entire herd or many herds.
Another issue with cloning or genetic alteration is the morality of the issue. Pope John Paul II issued a statement flat out condemning the practice of cloning altogether. The Catholic Church has since softened its position toward animal cloning but remains firm on humans. The same goes for Judaism and Sunni Islam. Abdelmo’ti Bayyumi, theologian from Al-Azhar University stated that it is forbidden to clone animals and humans under Islamic law.
One reason for this is the idea that we are “playing God”; creating souls that were never intended. It brings up a good point ethically, what right do we have as humans to decide which direction nature should go? What right do we have to change an entire species just to make life easier? They claim it isn’t what God planned and any changes are an “abomination”. (http://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/cloning.html)
Another issue that is more scientifically appealing is the fact that cloning has not been perfected yet. Dolly alone took 277 attempts before it was done right. The resulting attempts that grew to any appreciable size were sometimes warped and mutated. Some of the attempts would have produced normal looking sheep but with severe mental problems. Technology has come a long way since then but these results sometimes still happen.
Even when the technology is perfected, another problem is that people may start “building” their children. Not just those who can’t have children but those who want a blond haired kid or a kid with long legs. This “picking traits” may someday lead to creating the “perfect human” or creating a person with greater strength and lower intelligence, a genetically created lower class. Many ethicists see this as tampering with Mother Nature, and feel it is against all normal moral codes.
While these problems are real and unavoidable, I believe that the advantages to cloning and genetic alteration far outweigh the disadvantages as far as it is limited to plants and animals. I stand with those who oppose human cloning and alteration. The risks are too great and the power too new to trust at this time. Maybe someday, in the future, we could handle cloning responsibly but for now we should limit the research to plants and animals.
One exception includes stem cell research. Further study could show us how to take the stem cells from adults and use them to cure many of mans diseases. While I don’t like the idea of using fetal DNA, for now it is the best option, the embryos are due to be thrown away anyway; their DNA might as well be used to help someone stuck in a wheelchair walk again.
Modifying plants and animals, on the other hand, increase our quality of life, reduce costs, and allow us to learn and advance even further in our knowledge of life and its place in the universe.
Lisa Zyga. “Scientists breed goats that produce spider silk.” Physorg.com 31 May 2010. 1 April 2011
Team 24355. “Pros, Cons, and Views on Cloning.” Thinkquest.org 1998. 1 April 2011
The Roslin Institute. “Cloning Dolly the Sheep.” Animalresearch.info 2011. 1 April 2011
Brian Montopoli. “Debrief: The Embryonic Stem Cell Debate.” CBSNews.com 9 March 2009. 2 April 2011
Deborah B. Whitman. “Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Helpful?” CSA.com April 2000. 3 April 2011 < http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/gmfood/overview.php>
Glenn McGee. “Primer on Ethics and Human Cloning.” Actionbioscience.org Feb. 2001. 1 April 2011
Santa Clara University. “Ethics of Human Cloning and Stem Cell Research” SCU.edu 12 Oct. 2001. 2 April 2011
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