Monday, August 16th, 2021 -- With the rise of genetic modifications in plants and farm animals, many people are beginning to wonder whether it is truly ethical for these organisms to be scientifically manipulated to fit the needs of humans. Through these new advancements in biotechnology, there are many risks and ethical dilemmas that need to be considered.
While most agree that genetic engineering for plants is ethical, since the plants are not living organisms, genetic engineering on living farm animals is a different story. These animals can be affected in many different ways, especially if they are harmed by the effects of genetic engineering. For example, many farm animals are given chemicals to fatten them in order to increase their value, but this can also cause unexpected welfare problems.
Even though this type of technology seems new, similar practices have been used in the past as well. The act of selective breeding has affected animals in the same ways as genetic engineering, but simply took longer to implement. An example of an animal that has been poorly affected by selective breeding is the pug. These dogs used to be similar to wolves, but due to being selectively bred for certain traits, the anatomy of a pug has changed over time and has caused many medical issues as a side effect.
Similarly to pugs, who knows what kinds of side effects genetic engineering may have on different breeds of farm animals in the future? These farm animals may be poorly affected in many unknown ways.
Ormandy, Elisabeth H, et al. “Genetic Engineering of Animals: Ethical Issues, Including Welfare Concerns.” The Canadian Veterinary Journal = La Revue Veterinaire Canadienne, Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, May 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3078015/.
Genetic Modification: a change in an organism’s genes to change a certain aspect of that organism or to make it more useful to humans
Selective Breeding: process where humans control breeding to either increase or eliminate a particular trait from the organism
Genetic Engineering: the process of using biotechnology to change the genetics of an organism
Anatomy: structure and parts of an organism