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Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Coursework

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Updated: Jun 13th, 2022

The advent of biotechnology and genetic engineering has offered entirely new opportunities to scientists but it has also imposed new ecological and ethical standards. There is a widely held opinion that science, itself, should not be interpreted from moral perspective, because it seeks only knowledge, yet the events of the twentieth century have proved that some inventions or discoveries may be used for rather unworthy purposes, moreover, the consequences may often be unpredictable. While conducting any research in biotechnology, it is of crucial importance to follow environmental safeguards. If I were engaged in this activity, I would first think about long-term effects.

We may take for instance, the cultivation of new agricultural species, resistant to plant viruses or temperature drops. At first glance, this idea of plant, capable of growing in all circumstances, seems almost fascinating. Yet, it should be borne in mind that such species often adversely affect some animals or even lead to their extinction (Chirikjian, 1996, p 44). Overall, in such case, I would first adhere to the principle of non-maleficence, which means “do not harm”.

Apart from that, there are some experiments that cannot be ethically justified, at least in my opinion, for example, the cloning of human being or the attempts to find the gene for genius. It is very unlikely that such experiments will yield any results. In my belief, scientists should not play the role of God or of nature. In the overwhelming majority of cases, such games end in horrible calamities.

Famines may be causes by a great number of factors, and very often it is extremely difficult to determine, which of them is the most crucial. Sometimes, severe shortages of food are ascribed to environmental forces, such as for example, failure of crops, adverse weather conditions, droughts, and so on. However, it appears that sometimes famines may stem from the peoples actions or inaction. In order to substantiate this hypothesis, we should refer to the history, for instance, the Famine in Ireland, also known as Black Death, and the notorious Holodomor in the Soviet Union. Overall, it is quite possible for us to say that both these tragedies could have been averted. In the first case, the British government should have acted immediately. It was necessary to provide people with food supplies, but the officials decided to there had been no danger of people.

As for the famine in the Soviet Union, we may say that it was artificially and deliberately created to subdue peasants, who were resisting the governments reforms. Fortunately, such examples are not numerous. Additionally, we should not forget about the negative impacts of human activities are not always noticeable. For instance, in many countries, agricultural techniques have become dated long ago; however, the farmers still continue to employ them (Curtis, 1998, p 73). The fertilizers, used in such countries as Ethiopia or Sudan are not ineffective and even dangerous, but the farmers often have no alternative. Certainly, one can hardly propose some remedy because much depends upon the circumstances, but probably people should not blame only nature for all their misfortunes.

Jimmy Carter, the former president of the United States once made the following statement, “Responsible biotechnology is not the enemy; starvation is.” This argument can be interpreted from various perspectives. Perhaps, the famous political leader did not want people to look at biotechnology and genetic engineering with uncertainty or even apprehension. The main problem is that even now some rather conservative individuals suggest that the experiments in this field should be strictly prohibited, because they allegedly cause harm to people (especially future generations) and the environment.

In point of fact, such belief is not sufficiently grounded, because at this moment there is no conclusive evidence, indicating that agricultural biotechnology may lead to some genetic changes in the body of a human being. The major idea that Jimmy Carter wants to advance is that genetic engineering and biotechnology are just instruments or tools in our hands. Our main task is to use them effectively. The knowledge, itself, may serve both noble and viscous ends, and the outcome is determined by those, who possess this knowledge. Sometimes, we say that some scientific discoveries should have never been made.

Ironically, science aims to help humankind but now we become more and more afraid of it. It is hardly possible for me to disagree with Jimmy Carter; however, I would like to point out some very important detail, which must not go disregarded. The achievements of modern science must not belong to people who set only commercial goals. Occasionally, they are in the hands of some unscrupulous individual, who pursue only profit. They are not genuinely concerned with the well-being of people, who may be dying from starvation at every second. Under some circumstances, they conceal their true motives under very noble pretexts, but the only thing they hanker for is money.

Prior to answering the question, whether it is possible to be absolutely health or not, we should first, discuss such concept as health, because it is multidimensional and we can hardly give clear and concise definition of this concept. Certainly, according to a popular belief it denotes the state of being vigorous and free from disease. But in my opinion, such interpretation does not fully reflect all the complexity of this question. First and foremost, the concept of health is highly subjective. According to psychologists there are some people, who suffer from some terminal disease, but even despite this fact they consider themselves healthy.

They are so firmly convinced of their rectitude that medical workers experience significant difficulties, dealing with these patients. Thus, we may say that on a perceptual level a person may feel absolutely sound but certainly it is just a dangerous delusion, self-deception that may give rise to severe complications

Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that even such as notion as disease is very ambiguous. Any pathology or deviation from normal physiological and psychological function is usually termed as a disease. But it should be taken into account that we have not studied all the peculiarities of the human. Overall, it seems that only a very optimistic person can state that he or she is absolutely healthy. Constant stresses and catastrophic ecological situation are not those factors, contributing to physiological and mental well-being of the society.

A great number of people, living in such states as the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom, are inclined to use such rather offensive phrase as “the third world” or even “underdeveloped countries”. Judging from the situation, which has recently emerged, we may say that these two worlds are estranged from each other. In order to substantiate this question, we can discuss such issue as global health. It would not be an exaggeration to say that in some regions people have to survive in almost insanitary conditions. Probably, I make a far-fetched argument but this insanitation seems to me the root cause of many contagious diseases, such as for instance AIDS.

The tragedy is that international community turns a blind eye and a deaf ear to this problem. Naturally, it is impermissible to disregard all the efforts of the Red Cross or some other charitable organizations, but this assistance is clearly insufficient. In my opinion, the governments in some developed countries are just trying to pretend that they are genuinely concerned with the global health. Such short-term policy is bound to have rather detrimental consequences, which have already become conspicuous. For example, we may mention immigrants who are virtually fleeing Africa due to several reasons (insanitation inclusive).

Moreover, we are in constant fear that the epidemic of some unknown disease is about to break out. As it has been noted before, “developed” nations want to segregate themselves developing ones, but it is no longer possible because the twentieth century is the age of globalization, which sets entirely new standards. Therefore, problem of one country may easily manifest itself in other regions. However, some politicians have not realized this self-evident fact.

There is a widely held opinion that natural chemicals are safe whereas industrial or artificial ones are dangerous and we should not use them. It seems that this belief is not based on true facts, and sometimes such firm conviction results in very adverse consequences. Every substance can be either remedy or poison, and natural chemicals are not an exception to this rule. In part, such hypothesis stems from the assumption that nature does not create anything, which may pose threat to the health of a person. It is hardly possible to agree with this argument because, in the overwhelming majority of cases, the effect of any chemical is determined by the dose, even the most useful vitamins may do harm if they are in excess.

Medical workers argue that such false belief puts practically insurmountable obstacles for them. There are some patients, who are very reluctant to turn for professional assistance; they usually give preference to the so-called folk medicine. According to them, it is much more efficient that the conventional one. Occasionally, this rather impudent behavior imperils health and even lives of these people though they are not even aware of being in grave hazard.

There is another problem, caused by such belief. Some unscrupulous individuals (or charlatans, to be more exact), make use of other peoples ignorance. Sometimes, they even claim that they have remedies for every possible illness. It stands to reason that this panacea is extremely expensive, though in fact, it is just a fake. Naturally, we have to admit that under some circumstances natural chemicals may be safer that industrial ones, but we must not make any generalizations.

Such international treaties as the Kyoto Protocol or the Clean Air Act have always been a subject of heated discussion among ecologists and economists. The underlying cause of this controversy is the question whether these legislative acts are effective or not. Some economists acknowledge the necessity for the reduction of greenhouse gases such as for example methane, carbon dioxide, but they also argue that such policy may strike a heavy blow on the financial and industrial systems of many countries (Epstein, 1990, p 66). In addition to that, they even state that the international community may be able to cope with the aftermaths of global warming. According to them, the restrictions, imposed by these conventions may give rise to another economic crisis.

In their turn ecologists raise several objections, they are firmly convinced that the effects of global warming are entirely unpredictable. As a rule, they refer to the danger of ozone depletion or ozone hole as it is also known. Their overarching thesis is that if humankind does not change its attitude towards this issue, there will be no one to overcome economic crisis. Certainly, we have to admit that all the dangers of global warming are not known to us at this point.

Nonetheless, it should be taken into consideration that the transition to low-carbon industry may be extremely difficult some developing countries. The question arises, whether it is possible to come to any consensus concerning this problem. First and foremost, the conversion to ecologically safe technologies is a gradual process; one cannot presume that it can be completed in a relatively short amount of time. Secondly, this transition may increase the overall productivity especially in the long run, though, indeed, the possibility of an economic crisis must not be eliminated. In this case, we need to place special emphasis on international collaboration and mutual assistance, because now many states have to solve this dilemma on their own.

The attempts of international community are aimed at reducing the emission of greenhouse gases, and minimizing the dangers of global warming. On the whole, this task is multidimensional, and we may single out several aspects such as technological, economic, political, etc. Each of them should be addressed effectively. The main reason why so many countries find it difficult to develop and install environment-friendly technologies is the cost of the transition. In some cases, this may lead to considerable losses of profits, delays, or breakdowns. Some people even claim that it would be easier to deal with the effects of global warming than to switch over to low-carbon industry. In this regard, we should mention that often manufactures choose to pay fines than to install filters, because it is less expensive.

There is some other facet of this problem; industrial companies cannot replace obsolete equipment since they have no alternative. As a matter of fact, even now some machinery cannot be adequately substituted. Perhaps, the government should encourage industrial enterprises to develop new policies. Now, leading companies are virtually forced to reduce emission of greenhouse gases. But is it really possible to achieve any purpose my means of compulsion? From my viewpoint, financial assistance or some monetary rewards can act as a powerful stimulus promoting the production, free from greenhouse gases.

Nonetheless, many excerpts speak about another hurdle that must be cleared. It is mostly connected with the interaction between the countries. Under some circumstances the governments cannot come to the agreement due to some political controversies (Colls, 2002, p 35). For instance, the United States and Russia are not always willing to collaborate just because these superpowers are struggling for the palm of supremacy in the world politics. They are not unanimous even in such issue as global warming or greenhouse gases.

On the whole, it is quite possible to say that international legislation does not provide clear and concise explanation as to who is responsible for the consequences of environment pollution such as failure of crops, the extinction of some rare species, the changes in ecosystem and so forth. Water pollution in one country may often resonate in other regions. In this case, it is of the crucial importance to determine the degree of liability.

There are numerous example of controversy; the most eloquent one is the notorious Danube pollution. This river passes through the territory of Germany, Austria, Slovakia etc. The discharge of cyanide that took place in the late nineties inflicted heavy losses on fishing industry in Romania. The government must negotiate the costs of controlling these pollutants, because it is a matter of mutual concern, thus the states should share the expenses in direct proportion to the degree of amenability.

Bibliography

Donald Curtis, Michael Hubbard, Andrew Shepherd (1998). “Preventing famine: policies and prospects for Africa” Routledge.

Jack G. Chirikjian, Edward Clement Kisailus, Karen M. Graf (1996). “Biotechnology: Theory and Techniques” Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Jeremy Colls. “Air pollution”. Taylor & Francis, 2002.

Joshua M. Epstein, Raj Gupta (1990). “Controlling the greenhouse effect: five global regimes compared”. Brookings Institution Press.

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