Ethical Progress? The Ethicality of Bioengineering and its Future, Malav Mallipudi, TX

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

In the twenty-first century, bioengineering is used to create up to 92% of U.S. corn, 94% of soybeans, 94% of cotton, and 75% of processed foods on supermarket shelves (Center for Food Safety, Pg.1). Bioengineering is the process by which genetic material is deconstructed and then reconstructed to improve the condition of an organism’s life or produce unnatural evolution within the organism for exploitation by humanity.


According to Stanford bioengineer Christina Smolke “Progress is so rapid in biotech that some popular fictions are on the cusp of becoming realities… [such as] de-extinction—the re-creation of long-vanished beasts and plants (Christina Smolke Pg.1).” Since its beginning in the 20th-century, Bioengineering has made leaps and strides in innovation, from eliminating the common cold to curing terminal genetic diseases and conceiving “designer” babies. As Bioengineering continues to progress exponentially, it is important for policy to progress along with bioengineering to prevent unethical procedures. Therefore, it is imperative to view the ethics of bioengineering from the viewpoints of Patients, Doctors, and The General Public to see the drawbacks of biotechnology and its future.


For patients bioengineering provides new ways to better treat, prevent, and predict diseases. According to Francis S. Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, therapeutic cloning through the use of bioengineering and human embryonic stem cells “providing key tools to help [doctors] study the origins of many devastating diseases that afflict babies /young children… [and] obtain stem cells, master cells ... capable of differentiating into multiple other cells (Collins, pg.1)” that can generate many specialized cells including nerve, muscle, blood, and brain cells and “hold the key to developing more effective treatments for common disorders such as heart disease, cancer and degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's (Collins, pg.1)” as well as regrow entire organs for transplant and donation. The evidence above allows one to infer how bioengineering can provide new tools for doctors to treat conditions such as genetic disorders in present times and the possibility of future treatments such as neocreal organ transplants and regenerative treatments. Furthermore, according to Gale Online Collection, Awardee of the 2019 Tech & Learning Excellence award, Genetic engineering has the potential “to design babies with attributes or capabilities that exceed the normal range of human function (Gale,pg.1)” and “increase human potential, eliminate disease and disability, improve quality of life, strengthen the human gene pool, and lessen human suffering by correcting gene errors and prevent diseases(Gale,pg.1).” The evidence above leads one to reasonably conclude that genetic engineering allows for the discovery and development of new treatments and the revision of old treatments. The paragraph above shows how the advancement of biotechnology and bioengineering ethically offers more treatment options for both patients and doctors alike.


For doctors Bioengineering helps better understand diseases and conditions and prevent their spread. According to Amesh Adalja, UPMC Center for Health Security, bioengineering allows doctors and scientists to prevent disease via “genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes, [that can be] used to combat mosquito-borne pathogens – including viruses such as dengue and Zika – in many locations around the globe, including the United States (Adalja, pg. 1),” from the evidence above it is clear how the progression of bioengineering and its use by doctors has produced and has yet to produce new and more innovative forms of disease control. Furthermore, according to Christina Smolke, Stanford bioengineer, Bioengineering allows scientists to better understand the processes of aging, diseases, degenerative conditions, and creation and loss of memory as well as the processes by which these systems can be altered (Smolke,pg.2). The evidence here allows one to logically infer that bioengineering can help scientists better understand not only the progression and cure for diseases but also understand flaws within the human genome and how to correct them. From these pieces of evidence, it is laid out how bioengineering has the potential to not only eliminate biological threats and improve the human condition but also the ability to help doctors/scientists better research the human genome to help understand and improve the human condition. and The evidence here leads one to infer that bioengineering can help scientists better understand and cure flaws within the human genome. The paragraph above shows how the advancement of biotechnology and bioengineering ethically offers more research, disease prevention, and treatment options for both doctors and researchers alike.


However, for the general public bioengineering can provide unknown risks and unfair advantages to certain individuals. For instance according to Ann Quigley, apart of Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health, a dangerous risk with genetically engineered food is the possibility of unwanted gene flow to wild plants and weeds creating undesirable characteristics and altering the ecosystem, and the risk of allergens from one food crop, such as peanuts, being transferred to another through genetic engineering (Quigley, pg.4). This shows how the outcomes of bioengineering can have damaging and dangerous unintended consequences, from unwanted allergens to the breeding of herbicide-resistant superweeds. Furthermore, according to the Reason Foundation, publisher of the critically acclaimed Reason magazine, bioengineering has the potential to disrupt natural biological processes and create unforeseeable risks even though it is possible to use these practices in ethical ways to prevent suffering when undertaken for other purposes or in the absence of a solid ethical framework, genetic editing could have far-reaching negative with unintended consequences. For example “altering the genetic material of embryos to optimize socially desirable or individually preferred traits such as intelligence, athleticism, sex, or eye color, is ethically questionable because it is likely to worsen discrimination and inequality,”(Reason Foundation, pg. 9). The evidence here leads one to infer how bioengineering still a new and risky technology with the probability of highly unethical that can increase inequality and discrimination and give certain individuals unfair advantages. The paragraph above shows how the advancement of biotechnology and bioengineering ethically offers more research, disease prevention, and treatment options for doctors, researchers, and patents alike; however has drastic side effects and major unethical and moral dilemmas.

In conclusion, bioengineering has equal benefits and drawbacks as the bioengineering field continues to grow, 69.4% growth from 2010 to 2020 (Top 30 Fastest-Growing Jobs by 2020)and an additional 7% from 2020 to 2030, (Silman) and as biotechnology becomes more capable, it is important for scientists, government officials, and individuals to carefully regulate and restrict biotechnologies to prevent the misuse and abuse of biotechnologies to ensure the integrity of medical care and preserve equality in society.


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