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20 Important Genetic Engineering Pros and Cons to Know

Genetic engineering is the deliberate manipulation of genes to achieve the desired result. And in our society, it is a very controversial topic. So what could be the genetic engineering pros and cons?

The science of gene manipulation in a laboratory was pioneered in the 1970s with a sample of modified E. coli bacteria. But genetic engineering is something we have done for a long time. Genetic manipulation occurs through selective breeding when desirable characteristics are introduced or accentuated. 

Selective breeding has been around for thousands of years, but genetic manipulation by scientists only became a more widely discussed topic in the 1990s. Crops and human genetic manipulation could be crucial to a better and more sustainable future.

Genetic engineering might help us sustain better crops, stabilize the food supply, and eradicate certain diseases. However, it also has a lot of downsides. 

Engineering might have negative consequences in the future that we cannot foresee or might force a monopoly on larger companies producing GMO foods. It is not a simple topic to discover.

Engineering is still the subject of frequent, heated debate about the potential ethics, economics, and social consequences. Is it the answer to a more eco-friendly future, or could it create some of the biggest problems for future generations?

Is genetic engineering good or bad?

Scientist in Laboratory

The straight answer isn’t a simple yes-or-no answer. We need to look thoroughly at its pros and cons. Here are 20 important genetic engineering pros and cons to know.

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Genetic Engineering Pros to Know

Scientist on a Laboratory

Genetic engineering could be the answer we need to save the environment, create sustainable and faster-growing crops and remove certain diseases from the genetically modified organism of humans and plants. Its pros could have a positive impact on the planet.

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1. Genetic engineering can eradicate plant and human diseases.

Plant disease and Aphids on young plants
sushytska / Adobe Stock

Genetic engineering can remove volatile or diseased genes from the DNA of humans, animals, or plants. It is one of its most important potential benefits.

With genetic engineering, the worst conditions can be stopped and never occur again in future generations. It creates crops resistant to common diseases that would affect a non-GMO plant. In the same way, human conditions can be countered before they become a problem.

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2. Genetically engineered crops could be the answer to the world’s food scarcity.

Woman grabbing product of of thinly stocked shelves at a supermarket
F Armstrong Photo / Adobe Stock

According to the FAO, severe hunger and malnutrition affect as much as 30% of the world’s population. Access to resources is one of the contributing factors; budgetary constraints also contribute to the world hunger problem.

Genetically engineered crops have the potential to end the world’s food scarcity. Aside from being more resistant to disease and drought, GMO crops create fast-growing crops with longer shelf life.

Switching to these crops is not an overnight solution to the world’s hunger problem. Every successful crop is a step closer to feeding the world.

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3. Genetically modified crops have a longer shelf life.

View on rustic containers with various fresh vegetables and fruits
BearFotos / Shutterstock

Genetically modified crops are cultivated for their best qualities. Their less desirable traits are eradicated from the harvest to guarantee superior results.

The benefits of GMO crops include their resistance to pests and the cure of diseases. They also reach their ideal growth point faster.

Vegetables, fruits, and even dry goods can spoil for several reasons. Genetically modified crops don’t share this drawback – and it’s one more thing that could make them superior.

Spoiled harvests contribute to the world hunger problem: every lost crop is more food wasted. GMO crops can remain in storage longer by comparison.

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4. Genetically engineered crops require fewer pesticides.

Biotechnology scientist looking through microscope analyzing genetical material
DC Studio / Adobe Stock

Pesticides are one of the world’s biggest contributors to greenhouse gases, pollution, and habitat destruction. Though for crops unaffected by insects and animals, pesticides have long been considered an essential part of agriculture.

Genetically engineered plants require fewer pesticides if they require pesticides at all. They are resistant to most bugs that affect natural crops. These crops are a means to reduce the negative impact that pesticide use has on ecology and health.

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5. Genetically modified crops can be adapted to grow much faster.

Scientist checking the lab grown crops
ThisisEngineering RAEng / Unsplash

One of the substantial drawbacks of traditional crops and plantations is the speed at which they grow. The growth of a full and healthy crop can take months. The planning period to implement the genetic material at each rotation is not included.

One of the attributes highlighted in GMO crops is their growth rate. They can grow three times faster than traditional crops.

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6. Genetic engineering can restore biodiversity.

Rich biodiversity in Habay, Belgique
Coralie Meurice / Unsplash

Genetic engineering is one way to help restore the world’s biodiversity. Many of the world’s plant and animal species are threatened due to diseases or inherited conditions that declined their numbers.

If plants and animals of the world can be more resistant to what reduces their number, we can get closer to true biodiversity and the restoration of habitats. Our advancement in genetics will maintain balance in our biodiversity.

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7. Genetic engineering can help treat multiple medical conditions

Hands of engineer genetic working in laboratory
angellodeco / Shutterstock

Conditions we consider fatal today might not be as lethal in the future. Thanks to genetic manipulation. Once a specific gene behind a condition is identified, it can be removed through manipulation. Cancer is an example – but it could work on thousands of other terminal illnesses.

Genetic modification isn’t just for plants but might stop genetic diseases in humans before they become a lifetime of chronic pain.

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8. Genetic engineering shows more effectiveness.

Variety of Vegetables
Andres Carreno / Unsplash

Mankind has been using selective breeding for 10,000 years to bring out the best traits (and reduce the worst attributes) of animals and plants. It is considered the oldest form of genetic manipulation.

However, it has drawbacks. It can be timeous and sometimes very unpredictable. Undesirable traits are sometimes passed on by accident, even through the most careful breeding programs.

Genetic engineering is far more effective and precise. It can be modified at the molecular level, while selective breeding can cause mistakes.

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9. Genetic engineering has faster results.

Fresh carrots at a Farmer’s Market
Nick Fewings / Unsplash

Selective breeding was the primary means to accentuate certain traits of specific plants or animals until genetic engineering. Imprecise nature is not its only drawback – it can also consume time.

Breeding requires several stages that gradually reduce the trait in the plant or animal. It is a process that might take months to years to show results. It can even take decades to achieve anything.

Gene manipulation isn’t just precise but also fast. Its results are apparent from the next generation, not just several decades into the future.

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10. Genetic engineering can lead to healthier, more fruitful crops.

DNA Structure up-close
Warren Umoh / Unsplash

Genetic engineering can lead to healthier and more fruitful crops. With qualities like pest resistance and faster growth, a successful GMO harvest is almost guaranteed.

Without genetic modification, plants are vulnerable to pests, diseases, and weather conditions. Other environmental stresses can lead to an unsuccessful harvest and contribute further to the world’s food shortages.

Genetically modified crops are healthier, can withstand more, and are more likely to succeed every time. A higher success rate cuts out a lot of the hard work for the agricultural industry.

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11. Genetic engineering can remove undesirable traits from genetics.

Checking lab grown plants
ThisisEngineering RAEng / Unsplash

Wheat is a widely used crop, but wouldn’t it be great if the world’s wheat grew 20% faster and 40% stronger? The core thought behind genetic engineering: the urge to make genetics better.

Genetically modified plants will increase crop yield and healthier crops. Applying it to people will keep us away from diseases and genetic disorders.

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Genetic Engineering Cons to Know

Scientist Transferring Fluids on a Vials

Many people and scientists say that genetic engineering should be approached with care. Gene editing can still have drawbacks and consequences. So here are the cons of genetic engineering:

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1. Engineering and testing are expensive

Research Analyzing Agricultural Grains And seeds In The Laboratory
luchschenF / Adobe Stock

Selective breeding does not require scientific equipment, and we have been doing it for thousands of years. Genetic engineering must be done in a lab under specific conditions by trained experts.

Expenses are one of its biggest obstacles. Smaller companies can’t take advantage of the same technology as large corporations.

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2. Genetically modified crops might have less nutritional value

Female scientist pipetting colored chemicals into a tube.
Julia Koblitz / Unsplash

Genetically modified crops are designed to have a higher yield and faster production rate. However, the nutrient level of a genetically altered plant may have been compromised.

A change in genetics might mean a change in nutrition. If GMO crops contain fewer nutrients, they might not make a difference to world hunger as fast as we hoped.

A long-term study is needed to know how genetic modification can affect the nutrients in fruits, vegetables, and grains. The development of new strains and genetics can produce eventual, better results.

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3. Genetic engineering is not established.

Scientist checking crop genes
metamorworks / Adobe Stock

Genetic engineering has not been around for a very long time. It achieved more widespread use in the 1990s and is still very new to millions of people.

We have a clear idea of what it can achieve in a few generations. But genetic engineering has not been around for long enough to tell what its long-term consequences could be.

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4. Genetic engineering can create unforeseen genetic issues

Sungold tomatoes and herbs spilling out of a basket
Quin Engle / Unsplash

Genetic engineering can create a potential solution for genetic disease and ecological problems. At the same time, we are not sure what it does with fifty or a hundred years into the future.

We are uncertain if other genes can be affected by the genetic engineering processes. Could we solve one faulty gene but create future health concerns on the other end? The truth is uncertain at the moment.

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5. GMO-loaded pollen can interfere with natural crops’

Plant Pollination
Alex Jones / Unsplash

Genetically modified plants still carry pollen, and the pollen might still have an effect on surrounding plants. It’s essential because GMO pollen can interfere with other plants.

An accidental hybrid plant could be created when two types of pollen mix. A GMO farmer and a non-GMO farmer may have no intentions of mixing their crops, but it can happen with consequences for both.

GMOs and natural hybrids can have several costly consequences. It might even help the inevitable eradication of the original, non-GMO plant species. It could also interfere with farms without control over the pollen in the air.

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6. Genetic engineering brings ethics into question.

Dictionary definition of the word Ethics.
Feng Yu / Adobe Stock

Ethics is a crucial subject concerning genetic engineering. We know that we can interfere with genes and remove some others, but many still ask if we should.

Ethics divides not only people but also scientists and departments. A company can’t just switch to an endorsement of genetic engineering overnight: customers and shareholders would have questions regarding ethics. These circumstances slow down the research progress of genetic explorations.

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7. GMO crops are banned in some EU countries

European union flag against parliament in Brussels, Belgium
artjazz / Shutterstock

Debates about genetically engineered crops are ongoing worldwide. Their safety and distribution are questioned. Some countries have banned the use or sale of GMOs, including parts of the European Union.

The EU ban on GMOs directly affected companies that might use genetically engineered species and want to invest. A ban can also affect consumers.

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8. Genetic engineering and new viruses will need more study

Woman holding a Petri Dish
CDC / Unsplash

A change in one gene might trigger the vulnerability in the next. We are not sure how modified species could react to viruses that we don’t know about yet.

These theoretical viruses are “new,” and we won’t know how they affect people until it happens. And one more reason why many say that genetic research needs more time.

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9. Many countries still lack a legal framework for GMOs

Scales of Justice Represent and a book / Adobe Stock

Genetic engineering is still under many debates, but many countries lack a legal framework to deal with the consequences. Like genetic experiments, laws about genetic diversity need more time.

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