Earth’s resources, animals and plants, are the main sources humans depend on to obtain the needed energy to survive. However, plants and animals are like people, they get infected by diseases and die; they might also survive and transfer the diseases to humans. To overcome this problem, researchers have been working on both animals and plants to discover the genes that get affected by diseases. To keep the organisms healthy and alive, researchers would genetically modify the organism affecting the gene resulting what is known as GMOs. Gene editing technology benefit humans where such technology as CRISPR-Cas9, helps in curing complex diseases like heart diseases, and discovery of new drugs. However, since their implantation in the late twentieth century, GMOs has become controversial and are held in suspicion by advocates of public health and the environments; they accuse the GMOs as being unnatural, and unhealthy. Nevertheless, GMOs are very important in our life for supporting people’s nutrition, not to mention the use of GMOs complies with the Theocentric Ecological Ethics described by Pope Francis encyclical Laudato Si.
They are considered safe due, to being from nature, which belongs to God, not to mention maintaining the earth’s fruitfulness. The Pope emphasized on sustaining the earth’s fruitfulness as he brings to attention the misinterpretation of Genies 1:28 which some interpret as humans have control over the earth, where they would exploit any needed earth’s organisms without preserving or protecting them. The Pope urges people to “till and keep the garden of the world” (Francis, Laudato Si 67) which refers to the use and taking care of the earth organisms that humans depend on.
Despite the criticism and push to ban genetic engineering technology, modifying the genes of crops or humans is safe, as it plays an important role in keeping people’s life prosperous, and fulfill the theocentric ecological ethics. The Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as mentioned above changes the genes of an organism to cure disease and benefit the common good. The GMO technology was the solution to save the Papaya tree from the viruses that kept destroying the crop.
Other technologies like selective breeding, didn’t help stop viruses from killing the tree. However, GMO did not only save Papaya tree from extinction, but also helped the Papaya industry from collapsing; which is an important sector for the State of Hawaii economy. In addition, GMO technology, has a humanitarian benefit in promoting the common good through the development of Golden Rice.
About 500,000 children around the world, mostly in Southeast Asia, are suffering from vitamin A deficiency; relying on rice for nutrition that don’t contain beta carotene, a precursor of vitamin A synthesis, that its absence leads to blindness, causing many blind children to die. However, the genetically engineered Golden Rice have beta carotene, that means children will be able to synthesize vitamin A instead of taking the vitamin as a supplemental; which they may have it or not. The Golden Rice is a remarkable solution that has been benefiting people around the world through preventing blindness and possible death.
The use of GMOs initiated controversies as whether they cause harm to people or not; To give a clear answer, “there’s no good evidence GMOs are unsafe” (Saletan) as many studies conducted by organizations that concern with public health such as American Medical Association, World Health Organization, and National Academy of Sciences concluded that there are no risks linked with GMOs. Also, the use of GMOs drawn many criticisms from organizations, one criticism is accusing the corporate control of the discovered modified organism; yet, such claim has nothing to do with GMOs. Environmental organizations have their own concern that cultivating tolerant herbicides GMOs, is affecting the environment as farmers use herbicides more to kill crops that are herbicides-resistant when they want to cultivate another crop.
The use of herbicides does affect the environment since it contains chemicals and other substances; however, banning GMOs won’t solve the herbicides problem as farmers used to monoculture crops for thousands of years and will keep using herbicides when they cultivate different crop. Another GMO criticism arguing that the technology is changing a natural organism into unnatural one. It’s true that GMOs change genes and let the modified organism be unnatural; however, the gene are modified to serve a purpose of benefiting the common good and save organisms from dying.The alternation of genes application doesn’t just apply to crops, but it also extends to modifying humans’ genes to benefit humankind by treating diseases that affect the human body function. When the human’s DNA double helix was discovered years ago, gene editing technologies, each one with a specific feature were developed to serve certain purpose. However, the latest technology, CRISPR-Cas9, enabled genome engineering to move to the next level; as it’s easy to use and efficient compared to other DNA manipulating technologies that already exist.
CRISPR-Cas9 (clustered regularly interspaced palindromic repeat) consist of a RNA, single guide RNA(sgRNA), that was engineered from two RNAs, tracrRNA and crRNA. The sgRNA is the link between enzyme Cas9 and the target DNA strands to be cut by the enzyme; the sgRNA 3′ binds to the enzyme Cas9, while the 5′ side binds to the target DNA site. CRISPR-Cas9 technology is implemented in humans when a certain gene in the DNA of interest needs action, sgRNA is designed in the lab specifically for that gene, and Cas9 enzyme execute the mission to cut the target DNA stands at the gene location. After the gene is cut, the cell will initiate a process to repair the damaged DNA; during the process, the designed sgRNA will be introduced to the DNA leading to changes in the gene. The CRISPR-Cas9 is not limited to humans, but it is also used in agriculture.