Genetic engineering is the direct manipulation of an organism's genome using biotechnology.
It is a set of technologies used to change the genetic makeup of cells,
including the transfer of genes within and across species boundaries to
produce improved or novel organisms.
influence health and disease, as well as human traits and behavior. Much of
what we currently know about the ramifications of genetic self-knowledge comes
from testing for diseases. Once disease genes were identified, it became much
easier to make a molecular or cytogenetic diagnosis for many genetic
For adult-onset conditions, ethical concerns have been raised
regarding whether genetic testing should be performed if there is no cure for
the disease in question. Many people wonder whether positive diagnosis of an
impending untreatable disease will harm the at-risk individual by creating
undue stress and anxiety.
course, as genetic research advances, tests are continually being developed for
traits and behaviors that are not related to disease. Most of these traits and
behaviors are inherited as complex conditions, meaning that multiple genes and
environmental, behavioral, or nutritional factors may contribute to the
One potential risk of genetic research advances is gene doping. This practice is defined as the nontherapeutic use of cells, genes, or
genetic elements to enhance athletic performance. But does conferring one desirable trait
create other, more harmful consequences?
testing also harbors the potential for yet another scientific strategy to be
applied in the area of eugenics, or the social philosophy of promoting
the improvement of inherited human traits through intervention. Preimplantation genetic diagnosis may
be perfected and could technically be applied to select specific nondisease traits
(rather than eliminate severe disease, as it is currently used) in implanted
selection and enhancement in embryos raises moral issues involving both
individuals and society. First, does selecting for particular traits pose
health risks that would not have existed otherwise? The safety of the
procedures used for preimplantation genetic diagnosis is currently under
investigation, and because this is a relatively new form of reproductive
technology, there is by nature a lack of long-term data and adequate numbers of
research subjects. Still, one safety concern often raised involves the fact that
most genes have more than one effect.
In terms of society, it is not feasible for everyone
to have access to this type of expensive technology. Thus, perhaps only the most
privileged members of society will be able to have "designer children" that
possess greater intelligence or physical attractiveness. This may create a
genetic aristocracy and lead to new forms of inequality.