2002 June | Part A, Section C – Summary

Read the following passage carefully and answer, in your own words as far as possible, the questions that follow.

Scientists have made spectacular advances in genetic engineering in the last fifty years. The benefits of this genetic revolution to mankind are immense and almost limitless. In the field of medicine, many of the diseases that have hitherto proved incurable can now be eradicated using genetic engineering. It is now possible to identify the specific gene responsible for any given disease and to replace the diseased gene with a healthy one. This new technology can now be used to cure such serious diseases as diabetes, sickle-cell anemia and cancer. Geneticists (specialists in genetic science) claim that there are several other medical benefits that can be derived from this new science. They assert that by increasing the neurons in the brain, we slow down the ageing process.

Scientists are on the threshold of being able to redesign the human body to make it function more effectively. This interesting aspect of preventive of preventive medicine involves the intervention of the doctor to ensure that the fetus contains no diseased gene that can develop into a disease later on. Moreover scientists can now build or develop organs for transplant surgery. Patients who need heart surgery or kidney transplant no longer have to wait endlessly for donors or be worried that the donated organs would be rejected by their body’s immune system.

Perhaps the greatest benefits of the genetic revolution are in the areas of crop and livestock production. Cloning or the creation of a new plant or animal from the genetic information carried in one cell, has already been done with plants and animals. The result is the production of grains that yield their own fertilizer or can be grown in factories without sunshine and soil. Already in the United States of America, genetically modified (GM) potatoes, tomatoes, apples, etc. are on sale in supermarkets. The main difference between these GM products and their conventionally produced counterparts is that the former are usually bigger and have a longer shelf-life than the latter. Consequently, most shoppers would rather go for the GM products, other things being equal. GM livestock are usually a good bargain. Imagine being offered a chicken the size of turkey or a sheep almost a cow! If the price and the taste are comparable the housewife would naturally prefer the GM breed, just as we now prefer the so-called “Agric” fowls to our smaller local breed.

There are, however, serious potential dangers. The greatest risk is the escape – by accident or by design – of harmful microbes from the laboratory into a world that has no defenses against them. Some scientists have speculated that the HIV virus may have originated from such an accidental escape. The world has not the case of Adolf Hitler who, in furtherance of this project of creating “a superior” race abused scientific knowledge and plunged the world into World War II. For this reason, many governments have been cautious, or even reluctant, to give the geneticists the necessary approval to implement the results of their researches. There is no guarantee that man can trusted not to use this new found “power” for destructive ends.


Questions

(a) In four sentences, one for each, summarize four benefits of genetic engineering to man

(b) In two sentences, one for each, state two dangers inherent in genetic engineering.

2002 June | Part A, Section C – Summary
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