E2, Abi 2010: Genetic engineering - Walter Siemes


11 Δεκ 2012 (πριν από 5 χρόνια και 7 μήνες)

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E2, Abi 2010: Genetic engineering


First, read the two texts about genetic engineering.


In text 1, Five major advances in genetic engineering, evaluate the five listed items:
are they ‘good’ or ‘bad’? Which is ‘more’ helpful than others, and which should n
have been developed? Give your reasons using either an illustrative (plain
positive/negative) or argumentative (pros and cons) structure.


Then, read text 2: Applications of genetic engineering.

Are there any differences in content to text 1?

How serio
us is the use of argumentative structure here? Can it really show positive or
negative aspects of genetic engineering?


Explain the last paragraph:

”Genetic engineering is a valuable technology, but it is not without its faults and
technical difficulties.

There is also no such thing as absolute safety or zero risk. Every
new technology has some risk attached to it. As long as the benefits far outweigh any
negative effects, and that everything possible is done to ensure that those risks are
minimal, new tec
hnologies, including genetic engineering should be pursued with
vigour. The biggest risk may be in not pursuing them?”

Is that an example for rationalization or a serious end to a serious article? Why has the
auhtor probably chosen to give a question as t
he last sentence?

Text 1:

Genetic engineering has been making headlines since the technology first came to
the public's attention. Although the achievements haven't lived up to the hype or
expectation of some, there have still been some stunning advances
. Here are five of

Genetic Engineering Advantages

Genetic engineering is the ability to be able to change part of an organism's genome
to create some desired or beneficial trait. Of course humans have been doing that for
thousands of years with th
e selective breeding of cattle and crops, but the advantage
of genetic engineering is that we can now go directly into a genome and insert or
remove a chunk of DNA to create something beneficial.

Five Major Advances in Genetic Engineering

Genetic engineeri
ng came of age in 1973 when
Herb Boyer

Stanley Cohen

world's first genetically engineered organism
. They were able to cut a bacterial
plasmid with enzymes and insert DNA into the gap that was created. The ultra

revolutionary par
t of their work was demonstrating how traits from totally different
organisms could be mixed together. They successfully spliced toad DNA into the

E.coli genome

The b
iotech company, Genentech (founded by
Herb Boyer

and Robert Swanson)
announced in 1977 that it had cloned and manufactured the human hormone
somatostatin using genetic

engineering. In 1978 they made another major advance in
genetic engineering with the production of genetically engineered
human insulin

by a strain of
E. coli

In 1981 scientists at Ohio University made a major advance in genetic engineering by
creating the world's first transgenic animals. They were able to splice rabbit genes

the mouse genome, which were passed on to two subsequent mouse generations.

Flavr Savr tomato

became the first genetically modified plant to be licensed for
human consumption. It went on the market in 1994 and was only available for a few
years. The fruit had been genetically engineered to be more resistant to rotting. The
aim was to produce a crop that could ripen on the vine, but still have a long shelf
and of course be very tasty.

Human genetic engineering


in 1990, a four year old girl named Ashanti DeSilva was
given genetically engineered white blood cells to bo
ost her weak immune system. It
was the
first gene therapy trial
, and though the technology is not yet commonplace,
continued research does make the prospect more likel

Read more:


ations of Genetic Engineering

Genetic engineering has applications in many fields; medicine, agriculture, the
environment, and food production. It can be described rather generally as any
genetic manipulation that allows an organism to perform new functio
ns or produce
new substances.

The unravelling of

and the mapping of a diverse range of organisms such as

humans, dogs and viruses, is giving us unprecedented knowl
edge into how nature
works. Knowing the fundamentals of how a cancer spreads, the tricks a

uses to
replicate inside our cells, or what prompts a brain to deg
enerate in Alzheimer's
patients, equips science with the tools to counter these harsh realities of life.

But the technology is not without its critics, and just as genetic engineering has many

plus points, there are also some cons that must be considered.

Pros of Genetic Engineering

In looking at the pros and cons of genetic engineering, we'll consider the technology
in the fields of agriculture, food production, and medicine.

Many crops such as rice, maize, and potatoes are being
genetically engineered


several ways. Proponents argue that the benefits are many; 1) higher crop yields 2)
more nutritious food 3) crops can be grown in harsh environments 4) they are more
esistant to pests thus eliminating the use of potentially hazardous pesticides 5)
undesirable characteristics can be removed 6) food can have a better flavour and a
longer shelf life and 7) they can also be used as a cheap source of medicine.


To treat many

threatening illnesses genetic engineering aims to replace faulty
genes with perfect working copies. The potential is incredible. However, whilst there
have been some small successes in gene therapy trials to cure vision impairment
and also X
SCID (wh
ere people lack an effective immune system)

it's fair to say that
so far the technology hasn't lived up to expectations. It's an extraordinarily difficult job

to get a gene to exactly where you want it in the body, and for it to function in the way
you want it to. Plus our expectations were probably too high from the start.

Read more:


Cons of Genetic Engineering

In terms of
gene therapy

this can be a dangerous procedure. A

is being used as
a vector to get the genes inside, and some fear that even though the virulence
factors have been silenced, danger is still at hand. There's also a risk that a gene
could land in a spot other than where you
want it and cause harm by being

expressed in unusual ways. There have been several deaths in gene therapy trials,
most famously that of Jesse Gelsinger in 1999.

Opposition to the use of genetic engineering in food and agriculture centres on
several fears.
Namely that any gene for herbicide resistance may spread into other
crops and create some form of superweed; or that a genetic modification that is

passed on say through pollination, might pose a hazard to the ecosystem. There's
also a concern that unusual

gene expression may lead to crops causing more allergic
reactions in consumers.

There are many more pros and cons of genetic engineering than the few that are
listed here, and all are argued passionately by advocates on both sides, many

clutching reams of

data to back up their arguments. That makes it very difficult for the
lay person to understand exactly what is going on, especially when combatants (if
that's not too strong a word) seem equally eminent and well qualified.

What is certain is that even tho
ugh many are concerned with its speed of
introduction, fearing that it is going too fast for society to understand any and all

possible implications, genetic engineering is here to stay.

Genetic Engineering and Society

Of course there are many people who v
iew this kind of genetic manipulation as
against nature. Proponents of genetic engineering counter this by arguing that man
has been manipulating genomes for centuries with the selective breeding of crops

and cattle. That some see it as against nature is a

redundant argument, unless they
want to go back and live in a cave. Every single technological advance from the pills
that keep some people alive to the clothes we wear and the vehicles we travel in is
'against nature.'

The advance of technology be it in
biotechnology or in computer science is never

ending. Innovation and finding solutions to problems is what we humans are good at.
That is not to say that an innovation doesn't of itself present new problems.
Sometimes it does. However, to stop the progress

of technology is against nature,
human nature. We are born with inquiring minds, we like fixing things; it enhances us
as a species.

This is not to give carte blanche to scientists and engineers though; innovation

should never be conducted in a moral vacu
um. Society must have every opportunity
to weigh up the pros and cons. That involves a willingness on the part of scientists to
explain their work at every opportunity, and in a language that people understand. It
also requires us the public to listen and
to learn for ourselves. Frankly over the years
the amount of ill
informed debate about genetics and cloning has been ridiculous.

Some of the blame goes to the media who love to make up stories about the 'evil
geniuses' wanting to create
Frankenstein's monster.

Genetic engineering is a valuable technology, but it is not without its faults and
technical difficulties. There is also no such thing as absolute safety or zero
risk. Every
new technology has some risk attached to it. As long as the benefits far outweigh any

negative effects, and that everything possible is done to ensure that those risks are
minimal, new technologies, including genetic engineering should be pursu
ed with
vigour. The biggest risk may be in not pursuing them?