Despite how different they are in appearance or taste the fact remains that Broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage all come from a single species of mustard. Selective breeding in horses results in creating a horse that has genes for speed or genes for hard labour.
Scientists have learned to spot which gene does what in building a new organism. They’ve found out that simple organisms like bacteria or viruses often have genes which are useful because they can be snipped out and put into plant genes.
Doing this could give the plant special new abilities like resisting disease, or give it the ability to grow faster, or make it grow in salty water or even very little water. With regard to the agricultural industry, transgenic farm animals can be created, that are better able to resist disease and grow faster.
Transgenic cows could yield more milk; transgenic sheep could yield more wool; and cows could be engineered to more efficiently convert grain to higher quality milk and meat. Also, transgenic animals like goats, sheep, and cattle, have been engineered to produce large amounts of complex human proteins in their milk, something very useful in the creation of therapeutic drugs.
Genetic engineering could be used to repair damaged or replace missing genes in people who have genetic disorders such as cystic fibrosis and hemophilia. Since it is gene specific it could be used to treat cancer cells, thus avoiding the collateral damage that chemotherapy causes healthy cells.
Traditional breeding like in the case of the mule, which is a cross between a horse and a donkey, involves gene exchange in the proper context of the environment and the biological world. Genetic engineering is different because it crosses the species barrier.
Crosses are made which could never have happened in the natural world. Scrambling genomes will lead to the total destruction of evolution. New, strange species will be created. Ever since the successful cloning of the sheep Dolly in 1997, people have been debating over the possible cloning of humans.
Human cloning raises deep concerns, given our cherished concepts of faith and humanity. It might result in parents wanting to have made to order children. It might result in the death of individuality. Every next person could be a Vishwanathan Anand or a Bill Gates. It could mean altering our genes so that we could overcome death itself.
The pros and cons of genetic engineering are varied and many. We must not sit complacently by as this technology rapidly changes the very fabric of our existence. We must not wait till irreparable and irreversible damage like the world experienced in the case of nuclear damage happens. It is important that there be tight legislative regulation in the hope that whatever direction that genetic engineering takes us, it is a positive step towards decreased animal suffering, increased environmental sustainability and an overall compassionate regard for the earth and its precious life