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The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly

Volume 17, Issue 1, Spring 2017

David A. Prentice
Pages 65-81

The Genetic Engineering of Animals and Plants and the Boundaries of Stewardship

Genetic engineering can change the biology of a plant or animal by altering its genome. Historically, selective breeding, induced mutation, and screening have been used to adapt animals and plants for human uses. The advent of specific, more accurate gene editing systems, coupled with cellular and embryological systems for selecting genetically engineered organisms, provides even greater possibilities for altering animals and plants to meet human needs but necessitates an analysis of when and how such tools should be used. Bioethical questions concerning the reasonableness of a genetic experiment, the well-being of the modified organism, the integrity of a species and the environment, and the potential benefit to humans should be addressed before any genetic manipulations are undertaken. Animals and plants can be genetically engineered ethically, but certain lines should not be crossed if we are to be good stewards.

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