All plants and animals are made of billions of tiny cells. Inside each of these tiny cell there is DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid), which make up our genes. Genes are what influence our health and illnesses, as well as determining our human traits and behavior.
Genetic Engineering refers to the use of modern biotechnology to change the genes. With the use of this technology we could be able to achieve our desired traits, but there are many legal and ethical issues tied with genetic engineering that make this impossible in this immediate future.
Genetic engineering seems to be extremely beneficial so why there laws imposed in this delicate situation, what are the current laws in this field, how have these laws changed over time, what were the positives and negative impacts of the law changes and what changes should be made to the law and why?
Why was law needed in this area?
In the last years of the 20th century man discovered the powers of the atom, soon after the control of the gene was learnt. As man learnt more the undeniable vast extent of the true power of gene unfolded. Humans uncovered the gleaming silver lining of the cloud:
“I see nothing wrong ethically with the idea of correcting single gene defects [through genetic engineering].”(1)
Diseases, such as cancer and Alzheimer that could not be cured by conventional treatments, now have new treatments genetic engineering of stem cells and the cloning of genetically altered animals to produce suitable donors for humans, thus a kidney provided from a cloned pig, can be transplanted to people.
As any great life-changing element it also has a side of danger with in it.
“But I am concerned about any other kind of intervention, for anything else would be an experiment, [which would] impose our will on future generations [and take unreasonable chances] with their welfare ... [Thus] such intervention is beyond the scope of consideration.”(2)
Nature is an extremely complex inter-related chain consisting of many species linked in the food chain. Some scientists believe that introducing genetically modified genes may have an irreversible effect with consequences yet unknown.
Genetic engineering borderlines on many moral issues, particularly involving religion, which questions whether man has the right to manipulate the laws and course of nature. As well as that if humans were cloned the human life would be devalued, this would lead to discrimination between the clones and ‘originals’. Another problem to cloning is that all the features of the person would be bequeathed on the clone; all traits and illnesses will be present in the clone, which is not necessarily positive most of the time. For example an infertile couple could have a child through cloning, the ‘clone baby’ can directly inherit their diseases.
To regulate these undesired effects on the human race laws are required in this issue of genetic engineering as the possibilities in the field of genetic engineering is vast and never-ending.
Current Laws enforced for Issue
In genetic engineering there are rules and regulations placed for people to follow to prevent the state of anarchy and the reasons stated in the previous section, the unpredictable nature, moral issues, devaluing of human life and passing of unwanted traits. The laws imposed and what they allow and restrict for this matter of genetic engineering are presented below: -
The South Australian Reproductive Technology Act 1988 restricts ART (assisted reproductive technologies) to infertile couples at risk of transmitting a genetic defect to their child.
“[T]he Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 serves as a national system of control as concerns the quality, safety, efficacy, and timely availability of medicines, as well as for clinical trials. …[T]herapeutic use includes ‘use in or in connection with: preventing, diagnosing, curing or alleviating a disease, ailment, defect or injury;…