The ethics of the genetic engineering, to me, have everything to do with the predictability of the outcome. If scientists can accurately and thoroughly predict that the result of genetic experimentation will be safe, I think it is ethical and ok.
Using genetic engineering in food and crops should follow the same ethical criteria. Scientists should be able to predict accurately what the outcome will be with continued use of altered and engineered food and crops before enacting the alterations and passing them on to the public at large.
I would say that genetic engineering has both pros and cons. The way we use the technology right now has mostly pros (as post 2 pointed out). We are able to create healing techniques and medicines. We can even improve our crops to feed our population better. One of the dangers in this equation is, of course, unforeseen consequences to these actions. It took nature millinea to develop what humans have changed in a matter of decades or even years. We do not yet know what the consequences of this will truly be. Some people believe we should not interfere with nature. Truthfully, humans have long been removed from the phenomenon of natural selection. We can control our environment and weaker genes are allowed to flourish because of medical advances. Perhaps genetic engineering is not just a logic next step but a necessary one for our species. However, we have to consider the moral implications of such a decision. To what extreme are we willing to take genetic engineering? At what point do we cross the line from pro to con (or right to wrong)? Genetic engineering is a gray area in this sense. Do we remove the autism gene? Do we correct mental illnesses? What would be the consequences of this action? What if we "cure" these people and we find we have no more artists or creativity (not that a person has to be mentally ill to be an artist, but many artists are a little different in the way they think)? The fear is that changing the human genome will change humans. We fear the consequences of major genetic modification because we simply do not know what the consequences will be.
The problem can be that scientific advances can outpace the development of the ethical codes that govern them. There are several fears specifically relating to genetically modified crops that make sense to me. They can, first of all, transfer their genes to non-modified species, making some weeds, for example less susceptible to herbicides. They also can be very expensive, which makes can make them too capital-intensive for poor farmers to grow.
I generally agree with the people above. Genetic engineering is extremely important for plants. The "Green Revolution" did so much to help crop yields and improved the lives of millions of people. I think that we get too worried because of terms like "genetically modified." If we really understood these things, I think we would not be so afraid of them.
Particularly in the field of agriculture, in plant development, selective breeding has been going on for thousands of years. Genetic engineering serves the same purpose, except it is literally more hands-on in the approach, with scientists inserting a genetic sequence to try to get an organism, plant or animal, to produce a desired trait. I think as long as we are trying to make improvements on what already exists, we are well within our parameters as practioners of the art. But, if we start cloning people, going beyond what already exists on a natural plane, I think we are overstepping our bounds.
Genetic engineering involves the introduction of foreign DNA into a host organism thereby making it genetically modified. This is done in the hopes that the gene product (protein) will be made in the host organism. In 1973, bacteria were genetically modified, followed by mice. In the time since then, humans have been able to splice human genes into bacteria, to have them make important proteins such as insulin, growth hormone, interferon. It is faster and less expensive then traditional methods. Crops have been genetically modified that won't freeze, and some genetically modified animals or crops produce vaccines that a person can then consume. Mice can be modified to use in research experiments. Most of the crops that are grown today have been genetically modified to resist insect pests, or to resist herbicides that do affect the weeds. In future, it may be possible to replace "defective genes" with normal genes thus improving a person's health who would otherwise suffer from a genetic illness. Many opponents to genetic engineering think it is like science fiction and that potentially, a genetically modified organism might wreak havoc on the ecosystem once it is introduced. But, evidence thus far supports it being safe. Therefore, my opinion is that any technology that can improve a person's life and health and well-being is fine with me as long as science must answer to agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration and follow proper research guidelines.
I think that there is no black and white answers, human genetic engineering, at least, is an ethical grey area. On one hand, we could potentially eradicate diseases such as cancers and suchlike, but when it comes to the removal of autism, for example, as mentioned by above, what would that say about the value to society of the lives of thousands wordwide with austism?
I think genetic engineering is fine, and should be encouraged! For example, it would be helpful to remove autism genes and cancerous genes.