Ethical Issues

Bioethics is the study of ethical issues related to DNA technology. Many scientists and nonscientists are involved in identifying and addressing any ethical, legal, and social issues that may arise as genetic engineering techniques continue to be developed. They want to make sure that none of the tools turn out to be dangerous or have unwanted results and that any technology and data that arise are carefully used. Almost all scientists agree that continued restraint and oversight are needed.

For example, some people are concerned that GM food crops might harm the environment in unusual ways. What would happen if introduced genes for herbicide resistance jumped to the wild, weedy relative of a GM crop? To this end, in the mid-1970s, government agencies set standards for safety procedures and required permits and labels for certain GM products. Most biologists agree that rigorous testing should be conducted and safeguards required before farmers release GM organisms into the environment.

Most scientists currently consider gene therapy to be unethical if it involves reproductive cells that would affect future generations. Most people consider cloning of human embryos for reproduction unethical.

The welfare of each patient is most important. Confidentiality of each individual's genetic make up is vital to prohibit discrimination in the workplace. Decisions about ethical issues must be made not just by scientists but by the involvement of an informed public.

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