This paper defines the human genome Project and discusses some of the ethical and social issues associated with genetic modification. (3+ pages; 2 sources; MLA citation style.
The Human Genome project is an on-going attempt to understand the basic building blocks of the human organism. This paper defines the genome and some of the potential ramifications of the project.
A genome is “the sum of all the DNA in an organism”. (“Human Genome Project”, PG).
The DNA itself includes the genes, which in turn carry the information necessary to make certain proteins. The proteins in their turn determine such things as physical characteristics, some behavioral characteristics, and how well the organism will be able to fight disease, among other things. (“Human Genome Project,” PG).
The genome contains four chemical bases, which are abbreviated A, T, C and G. It is the order in which these bases occur that determines what species the organism is. The human genome has “3 billion pairs of bases.” (“Human Genome Project,” PG).
The Human Genome Project ‘s goals are to “identify all the approximate 30,000 genes in human DNA”, determine the 3 billion chemical base pair sequences in human DNA; create databases to store this information; develop improved tools for data analysis; “transfer related technologies to the private sector” (the HGP is run by the government); and “address the ethical, legal and social issues … that may arise from the project.” (“Human Genome Project Information,” PG).
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The “ethical, legal and social issues” are abbreviated ELSI, and are of concern to project workers, enough so that special attention is paid to them. It takes little reflection to imagine some of the problems and concerns that are inherent with this technology. For example, genes control physical and behavioral development, and the ability to fight disease, among other things. Would it be ethical to genetically modify the disease-fighting genes so that the individual would be able to fight off the AIDS virus, for example? What about parents who want blue-eyed blonde children? Is it ethical to modify the genes controlling genetic make-up so that such children will be born?
If genes control some types of behavior, perhaps science could modify them so that violent tendencies are curbed before they begin. Or perhaps science could create genetically enhanced students who love to study and retain what they read, so that they can achieve academic success easily.
While it’s easy to see that some of these modifications would be “good”, it’s not clear that such things as modifying genes to insure a pleasing appearance are ethical. In fact, as we consider the various things that might be done to a developing organism, the problems with genetic modification become more and more pressing.
In its section on “Ethical, Legal and Social Issues” the HGP brings these difficulties into sharp relief when it discusses who might need information in order to engage in genetic modification. The question of fairness is first on their list, as they wonder who should have access to genetic information (insurers, employers, courts, and the military, among others) and how it will be used. There is the problem of keeping genetic information private; and the social “stigmatizing” of a genetically modified individual by others who are not so enhanced. (“Human Genome Project Information,” PG).
... ethical guidelines must be determined as to what extent scientists, geneticists, and doctors will utilize this information. The Human Genome Project ... , equity, and quality. Autonomy-Genetic testing and the resulting information is highly personal. This information could be used to discriminate on ... as far as to prohibit testing or access to genetic information by insurers in its Civil Code. A NIE-DOE ...
These are only a few of the issues associated with the Project.
While the Human Genome Project seems to hold out great promise for the human species, it also contains a number of legal, ethical, moral and social issues that are just as important, or perhaps more important, than the benefits to be gained from any genetic modification.
“Human Genome Project.” Whatis?com [web page]. 21 Oct 1999. Accessed: 8 Dec 2003. //iroi.seu.edu.cn/books/ee_dic/whatis/humangen.htm
“Human Genome Project Information.” Doegenomes.org [web site]. 29 Oct 2003. Accessed: 8 Dec 2003. www.ornl.gov/hgmis