Introduction

Nature is supposed to be wilder than all the living creatures to decide which creature fits the environmental condition. This selection process lasts for thousands to million years depending on the compressibility and size of organisms. On the other hand, it can last seconds long for tiny living universes that we cannot see with bare eyes. Since the natural selection process and the possibility of negative conclusions for the requirement of humanity, people have begun to improve the plants and the animals naturally. Within biotechnology’s development, the improvement of some species has been put forward to them. Thus, we start the unnatural selection.

However, is unnatural selection injustice for the future of other creatures if we continue to improve specific species of plants and animals or our kinds? Does humanity ruin the balance of nature? Are the genetically modified creatures going to get the end? Lots of people ask these kinds of questions for fear of the unknown. Richard Feynman once said at one of his conferences: “Biology would be the branch of the science that encounters with ethical problems after physics.” As we can see, the time has come as biotechnology and clinical genetic process still going on.

First, let’s explain some terms about unnatural selection and give some examples. Agriculture and improving animals for farming- or domesticating them, have at least 10,000 years passed. Agriculture and improving the farm animals with interference in their breeding triggered such a change in society from the past to now. (The Development of Agriculture | National Geographic Society, n.d.) Not just the farm and pet animals- such as cat and dog families have more species now. An interconnected and characteristic suite of modifiable traits involving physiology, morphology, and behavior are often associated with domestication.(Driscoll et al., 2009)  Some dog and cat species have been powered and domesticated depending on our requirements of us. Fortunately, some species of them are protected by humans if these species have got to extinct in the past by nature.

With biotechnology and recombinant DNA processes, the selection and improvement of species have got new techniques. There is a new technique called CRISPR-Cas9. It can be used for cutting a specific damaged gene from genetic material and replacing the healthy gene. Genetic engineering will be developed at full speed with this technology. However, CRISPR has come with ethical discussions and disagreements. Below, it will be mentioned. Some species of insects, animals, or plants that harm other plants, animals, or us can be eliminated by using new gene technologies. Many crops have been improved using genes for disease resistance by crossing them with sexually compatible relatives — and if their relatives lack these genes, the same goal can be met by genetic engineering using genes from viruses, bacteria, plants, or other organisms (Stenseth et al., 2009). Genetic diseases will be a “destiny” no more with gene therapies. Even eugenics can be on the agenda again. The term “eugenics” is about the changes in the genetics of humans by genetic processes or choice of the most healthy partners briefly. You probably heard lots of expectations about designed babies. This example will be given with details below. The talking point is what if experiments about eugenics and other genetic processes lose control? Here, in this case, ethical problems and rules appear.

What are the Ethical Problems and Rules?

First of all, here is the most common subject for everyone. You have seen your family or someone else that has worries about if genetically modified foods are unhealthful or healthsome as natural foods. When we say the “natural” word, we can mention it in a few senses- for example, nutritional suitability, environment friendly, and so on. Genetically modified (engineered) food is unnatural in the meaning of being modified by us. Fruits, vegetables, or other food ingredients are getting modified to get the viruses or other diseases away, taking more yield from the taste or nutritive value. Despite this, it does not mean they are unnatural in other senses. It needs to be studied and detected by researchers. “Natural” word is generally used without knowing the meaning of use. This situation could be a reason for the confusion in marketing or food-producing. So, are the labeling system for these products going to change? If the new meanings or words could be used instead of “natural”, such as “pure” or “authentic”, would be better understood by everyone, not only producers (Siipi, 2015).

Genetically engineered organisms (GEO) as known as genetically modified organisms colloquially, will be increased for saving time for food problems and diseases which transfer within insects and rodents that could occur in dystopic scenarios of the future. On the other hand, future types of transgenics and pesticides may affect beneficial insects for the reproduction of plants and non-target species. Therefore, regulation is of vital importance when genetically engineered organisms are produced. Despite the possible negative response of genetic engineering on organisms and the fear of the public for the GEO, genetic engineering should be allowed with the condition of harmless and helpful for everyone and the environment. (424619a, n.d.)

Image: Purple patch: transgenic fruits such as these virus-resistant plums could cut pesticide use.

Image: Purple patch: transgenic fruits such as these virus-resistant plums could cut pesticide use.

Another problem is the ethical barriers to clinical genetics and gene therapy. Genetic studies and services have usually faced some ethical issues from the beginning. Especially, prenatal diagnosis and selective termination of pregnancies, proper communication of genetic information, and more that can be under the same name “reproductive issues”, also professional issues are important areas. After the first sequence of the human genome, sequenced individual’s genome for achieving a full diagnosis of someone increased. Technical developments are changing the ethical and social approach with issues in clinical genetics.

Let’s look at the history of ethical issues of the development of heredity before discussing the future of genetic engineering on us. In the 19th century, Sir Francis Galton developed the “natural ability”. He used his quantitive traits that developed the field of statistics that merged with Mendel genetics and focused on intelligence, social virtues, and social achievement. He wanted to improve the genetic quality of future human generations. He created the “eugenics” term. Eugenics is described as “the study of agencies under social control that may improve or impair the racial qualities of future generations either physically or mentally”. This term caused racist thoughts and it could divide the society. During World War II, eugenics may have played a role as a thought for Nazis.

Even the horrible events that are born within eugenics are stopped, the future is so unclear. Fortunately, the scientific validity of modern genetics is much greater and better. The past was a hard lesson about the ethical and social issues of genetic studies (Irving & Clarke, 2018). However, with modern genetics, discussions about the term have begun again. Designed babies born with AIDS-resistant genes were one example of what would be in the future. Of course, that event was illegal to our ethical rules for now. Bioethics for clinical research and therapies are much more complex to tell in this article.

One of Netflix’s mini-documentary series, “Unnatural Selection” was my inspiration to write this article. In one episode of the series, a few scientists were thinking of extinct the mosquitos’ future generation by changing the gene that plays role in reproductive in female mosquitos. Therefore, the carried diseases with mosquitos will come to a close. Other examples in the series are making an HIV cure without permission of the government, biohacking improvement of dogs by the owner with genetic engineering, and expensive gene therapies.

Conclusion

If we ask a question to the future; will the ethical rules come loose? Or will be the future studies of modern biology stuck by these rules? If someone would have developed their future generations by changing the genetics of their reproductive cells and made them better than everyone, would this be fair? There are lots of questions to ask and answers will appear in the future while science and technology are developing. I hope the decisions and the rules of bioethics will be in favor of either humans and balance of the nature itself.

References:

  1. Snow, A. Genetic engineering: Unnatural selection. Nature 424, 619 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1038/424619a
  2. Driscoll, C. A., Macdonald, D. W., & O’Brien, S. J. (2009). From wild animals to domestic pets, an evolutionary view of domestication. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(Supplement 1), 9971–9978. https://doi.org/10.1073/PNAS.0901586106
  3. Irving, R., & Clarke, A. J. (2018). Ethical and social issues in clinical genetics. In Emery and Rimoin’s Principles and Practice of Medical Genetics and Genomics: Clinical Principles and Applications (pp. 327–354). Elsevier. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-812536-6.00013-4
  4. The Development of Agriculture | National Geographic Society  https://www.nationalgeographic.org/article/development-agriculture/
  5. Stenseth, N., Dunlop, E. Unnatural selection. Nature 457, 803–804 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/457803a
  6. Siipi, H. Is Genetically Modified Food Unnatural?. J Agric Environ Ethics 28, 807–816 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10806-015-9568-5

Inspector: Furkan EKER

One response

  1. Gerçekten faydalı ve bilgilendirici bir yazı olmuş çok beğendim 👍. Eline sağlık Beril.

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