There are two types of cloning: molecular cloning and animal cloning. The concept of molecular cloning includes producing bacteria host cells, which contains an additional piece of DNA it did not possess originally, and allows it to reproduce exponentially. By doing this, the inserted gene is also reproduced. The presence of the new gene could allow the cell to synthesize a protein coded for the gene, could allow the cell to carry out other useful processes, or could give the cell a desirable characteristic it did not initially have.
However, animal cloning involves the process of nuclear transfer, wherein the entire nucleus from an embryo cell is taken and transferred into a female nucleus-less, or enucleated, cell. By 1989, nuclei were taken from blastocysts of sheep embryo, fused these with female enucleated egg cells, and subjected the new cell with electrical stimulus to trigger development before implantation into surrogate ewe. This marked the start of cloning mammals. In 1996, mammal cloning gave birth to Dolly the sheep.
With genetic engineering, we are able to produce defective or damaged organs and insert them back into our bodies without the fear of rejection. We can prolong human lifespan. And with the emergence of mammal cloning, it won’t be long until human clones are born into our world. Human cloning, when mass produced, can have serious implications. Although additional people can also mean additional manpower, over population will be one of cloning’s immediate disadvantages. Our limited resources may not be able to handle the demands of the society.
We must also take into consideration that cloning is asexual reproduction. The biological benefits and social aspects of reproduction are skipped as we try to modify the genetic sequences of the clones to be immune against common and/or dangerous diseases. As a result, genetic variation is disregarded, which can lead to only one new epidemic to wipe out an entire genetically uniform population. In sexual reproduction, genes from each parent can combine, mutate, and eventually bring about a biologically improved baby with characteristics that will enable it to survive.
As the child grows and chooses its partner, these characteristics, along with those of the partner, are then passed on to the next generation and so on. With cloning, which only presents a genetically identical being, the impact of mutation for further survival will be hardly evident. Social aspects of reproduction include the dating, marriage, mating, and family-nurturing traditions. These emotional, psychological, and social factors are fundamentally what make up our human lives. As scientists try to create a genetically perfect being through clone production, the social aspects of normal reproduction are overlooked.
This can result to competition for desirable characteristics within and outside the population no longer applicable. If these really happen, our primary goal of survival and reproduction can be brought to an end. On the other hand, the possibility of a genetic drift is still conceivable. The emergence of clones could bring forth a new set of genes and ultimately changing the gene pool structure, either to the advantage or to the disadvantage, of our kind. Biologically, we are still imperfect. We are not immune to all types of diseases. We have limits to our knowledge capacity.
In the near future, whether clones will replace our kind or technology will finally do all the work for us, we (or the clones) must continue to evolve in order to adapt to the environment – even that one outside Earth. A day will come where we will run out of resources. Migrating to another planet will become inevitable. According to National Geographic, the first known planet beyond the solar system that could harbor life as we know it has been discovered. We will have to travel through space for hundreds of years to reach this planet found some 20. 5 light years away.
But travelling through space alone will require us to adapt to various environment changes – like exposure to radiation, to extreme heat and cold, and to vacuum. Adapting to the new planet itself will require us to further evolve. Another example is climate change. As stated in a National Geographic documentary, a mere six degree increase in the Earth’s temperature could change the world. If the world warms by two degrees, some changes to the biosphere are no longer gradual. Greenland’s glaciers are disappearing… If the world warms by four degrees, oceans rise overtaking highly populated deltas, home to a billion people.
Bangladesh washed away. Egypt inundated. Venice submerged. Glaciers disappear, shutting off the flow of fresh water to billions more. Northern Canada becomes one of the planet’s most bountiful agricultural zones… If the world warms by six degrees, from a distance the oceans may appear bright blue. But they are marine wastelands. Deserts march across continents like armies. Natural disasters become common events. Some of the world’s great cities are flooded and abandoned. This could be our world plus six degrees.
The initial effects of climate change are already observable. If Earth does change as National Geographic has predicted it and we have nowhere else to go to, instinct will tell us to adapt to this new environment: extreme heat and a reduced amount of freshwater, food, and habitable land. As we try to adapt and evolve, a few (or maybe a lot) will unavoidably die. After all, nature is all about survival of the fittest. The process of natural selection applies as we try to survive the new environment and reproduce the next generation with new traits and characteristics.
Biology and culture will continue to interact and evolve as we try to survive a totally new environment. Culture will dictate us what to do in order to satisfy our biological needs like food and water. We will be brought back to square one, the way our ancestors first invented stone tools in order to catch food. The way we will cook food using whatever resources are at hand may also change our physical attributes. Due to shortage in water, we may develop a new characteristic that enable us to continue with little or no water at all.
Other unforeseen problems may arise and we will continue to mutate in order to survive. The Philippine culture and society will probably continue to have close family ties and strong religious beliefs amidst all the technology that will be presented to us. There may be a few entrepreneurs who will take advantage of a possible stem cell market producing stem cells in order to reach the demand. And probably, the government will try to attract potential stem cell buyers and make money out of them. It may good economically but we must consider the ethics behind stem cells.
Do embryonic stem cells have life? Is it justified for man to destroy life to save another? In these fields and in terms of animal and human cloning, the Philippine Catholic Church will (no doubt) strongly oppose the whole idea. The creation of life, especially human life, and the use of any of its parts plainly for scientific research is unethical and goes against the teachings of the Catholic Church. As much as the Church can prevent cloning, it will prevent cloning and any economic activities that come with it. More often than not, Filipinos would stand by and support the decision of the Church.
However, in terms of agricultural genetic engineering, most of the Filipinos are now accepting or have accepted the fact that our country is now producing genetically modified agricultural products like Bt corn and delayed ripening papaya. These products have helped our farmers produce better and increased harvest.
Mautner, M. (1997, November 1). Will cloning end human evolution? http://www. allbusiness. com/professional-scientific/scientific-research/642730-1. html MBB 1: Biotechnology and You. National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City.