By Jeck G. Tirambulo | Features Editor
Vol. XCI No. 11
Dec. 6, 2019
Decades ago, scientists have made a groundbreaking technology that can improve food production and security, and it was called genetically modified food or simply GM food. Although no matter how majestic genetic engineering was, the public were still not comfortable of consuming its food-based products, let alone allowed it to circulation. However, the people behind such technology did not stop nor discouraged themselves to pursue it. Instead, they have taken the penultimate step by incorporating the concept of genetic engineering to human embryos, hence, the ‘designer babies’.
About a year ago today, the first genetically modified babies were introduced to the public by a Chinese researcher, He Jiankui. While such could have been generally acceptable to the science community, his questionable motive behind its creation have made unfavorable criticism from different sectors and institutions. Not to mention that his research was also found to have been illegally done. Just last week, articles resurfaced online regarding the progress of gene editing—that by science community standards, it will be ethically created in two years from now. Now the question lies to the public eye, should it deserve public support or criticism?
For years, our general well-being have relied on evolution and scientific advancement to survive the ever changing conditions. Once the average human life expectancy rarely exceeds 30 years, now we are hitting 70s amidst the harsh environment. Thanks to science and medicine, women can now survive after giving birth, nobody will normally die after contracting minor diseases. However, despite these advantages, changes will always prevail.
Along with our advances and increased survival rate is the emergence of mutated deadly microorganisms, and the traitors within our body, the mutated genes that cause genetic disorders. Several studies have concluded one thing, nearly all diseases have a genetic component. Since most deadly diseases are caused by faulty genes, we could say that by removing that faulty gene or editing it, we can find solutions on how to prevent the occurrence of these diseases. Prevention of diseases through gene editing should logically start during pre-conception of babies, hence, their embryo stage of life. After all, prevention is done at the earliest possible time. Through this, we would have a generation of humans that are immune to common and rare diseases in the future. Parents can also decide the sex of their babies during conception. This, only if people are open in becoming progressive thinkers, those that are devoid of backward and repulsive thoughts.
Genetic engineering has long been a subject of public debate, with each side presenting arguments that sometimes are unfounded and subjective. While the scientific consensus of genetic engineering is generally safe, preachers of the natural and organic living would say otherwise, always without presenting substantial evidence. Once they ran out of something they can present to prove their arguments, their reasonings would shift to the social and ethical side.
Ethical concerns are things that cannot be separated from events that involve life. Whether you are testing on the tiniest of all creatures or the biggest, these things are still bound for ethical ridiculing. Is gene editing for human embryos ethically acceptable? For most religious zealots it is not, no matter how ethically sound the processes are. However, for scientists, if proper standards were followed, it is acceptable. It should be noted that there’s still scientists who are unwelcoming of this technology, not because of subjective reasons but of objective point of views. They are wary of the possible events that may take in the future.
In this era of pollution and tougher environment to live on, we are left with a challenge that can be inherited by the future generation, that is how to preserve the life that for some point of time a billion years ago, popped out in a form of single-celled organisms. If we can preserve our existence through this method, why would we still offer resistance? Anything that promotes progress should be of utmost priority.