Biotechnology began more than 10,000 years ago and is simply using biological processes to make products for humans. Genetic engineering is a type of biotechnology that began about 35 years ago and is process of altering genetic material to perform new functions or make new substances. In all aspects of biotechnology it is necessary to view all the evidence, it is never simply good or bad. There are always dangers in meddling with nature, but often the rewards have been enormous… and sometimes they have changed the world forever.
Often it is the use to which biotechnological techniques are put that determines whether the outcomes are good or bad. Often outcomes depend on motives, curiosity, greed, humanitarian need etc. In our time the power to engineer nature has become almost complete as recent human cloning revelations show that even humans can be created by biotechnology. It is not surprising that many organisations have different opinions on the safety of genetic engineering. Some feel it is vital to life while others believe it is an intrusion to our ethical being.
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The following table sharpens up the arguments for and against the most fundamental biotechnology… GENETIC ENGINEERING. In the midst of the controversy what are the real issues? The Objections Should we be modifying genes at all? It’s “playing God” or unnatural. It’s wrong to mix genes from radically different organisms. Religious and vegetarian groups would object to genes from some species. Do we really know what we’re doing? Have we evaluated the risks sufficiently? What if things go wrong and new viruses or bacteria are created that bring diseases new to humans – some say the aids virus may be this sort of thing.
Is it really necessary? Do we need genetically modified food? It is just going to provide luxuries for rich, and won’t feed the Third World. Agriculture is already too technological. This will only make it worse. They’re better ways to improve resistance and reduce chemicals on the land. Do we have a real say in what’s going on? Labelling measures are inadequate, and unjust towards those who object. Big business is imposing on our freedom under the guise of free trade. Government committees do not represent ordinary people enough.
Supermarkets act as enough of a voice. The Case in Favour We shouldn’t be afraid of biotechnology Why draw the line here, not elsewhere? We have many safeguards in place. Changing one or two genes does not make a foodstuff unacceptable. We are more than just our genes. Look at the opportunities for good Better resistance to weeds, pests, and disease. Better texture, flavour and nutritional value. Longer shelf life, easier shipment. Better yield, more efficient use of land. Less herbicides and other chemicals. Essential if we are to feed the world.
The Economic and Employment Case Opportunities for British innovation to benefit the people of Britain. If we pull out, jobs and wealth we might have created will go abroad instead. The Democratic Case With labelling, adequate protection can be given for those who object. Several ethics and safety advisory committees represent public concerns. If we take the specific example of genetically modified [GM] crop. This can all look very positive – in Africa many children are underweight and malnutrition contributes to a lot of child deaths each year in developing countries.
This, according to the United Nations children’s fund, UNICEF, is more than any infectious disease, conflict or natural disaster. The developing world’s heavy dependence on important foods such as rice, Soya, wheat and maize makes for a uncertain existence, if these crops are destroyed by unexpected drought, disease, flood or freak weather (not uncommon events in poor countries). It is said this is where the controversial research area known as biotechnology can help feed the starving millions, by engineering plant strains with improved resistance and yields.