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11 Δεκ 2012 (πριν από 4 χρόνια και 11 μήνες)

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Biotechnology is in a sense a
metaphor for all of the issues of
globalisation,


said David Ignatius,
Executive Editor, International Herald
Tribune, France. Like globalisation, the
dual face of
biotechnology is that while

the
promise is absolutely startling,


everyone who works in the industry also
recognizes that with every door that opens us to a new possibility, we are
faced with new unknowns and new
questions. The

social consequences of
biot
echnology are numerous and have both positive and negative aspects.






The scie
nce of genetic engineering has progressed to a point where
we can definitively state that such manipulation will shape the society of
the future. As the number of genetic interventions already possible
increases, the ethical application of each should be e
xamined. The use of
genetic engineering and manipulation needs to operate from an ethical
framework with the benefits of this technology being weighed up against
possible harmful effects. Though the responsible monitoring by
governments, legislators, and s
cientific organisations is seen as essential,
it equally is the responsibility of each competent individual to be morally
aware when confronted with issues related to this new technology; this
then enters into the domain of ongoing moral, ethical and theol
ogical
education.


A Chromosome


4






Genetic engineering has
arguably raised the most important
and controversial ethical issues
within the past decade. It represents
a technical endeavour that has the
potential t
o change human life as
we understand it. The purpose of
this paper is not to delve into the
technical details of genetic
manipulation; however, a brief explanation may be instructive:



Genetic engineering is the collection of techniques used to




Isolate

genes




Modify

genes so they function better




Prepare

genes to be inserted into a new species




Develop

transgenes


The quantum leap of this new technology allowed the human creature
to become the new creator

of life on earth, creating a variety of plants and
animals. Now natural evolution can be halted at our fingertips, forever
altering the meaning of life and forcing us to redefine religion, nature and
individuality. Science can alter other creature's very
genetic structure to
suit our desires and the market value. Do animals, plants, forests,
mountains, and oceans exist only for human benefit?


















Genetic material being transferred to a cell


5
















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Transgenic biotechnology presents an exciting range of possibilities,

from feeding the hungry to preventing and treating diseases; however,
these promises are not without potential peril. Some of the issues that
need to be considered are the following:


Are we blurring the lines between species by creating transgenic
combi
nations?



What
are the known health risks

associated with
Transgenics
?


What are the long
-
term effects on the environment when
Transgenics

are released in the field?



What ethical, social, and legal controls or reviews should be placed
on such resear
ch?



Are we inflicting pain and suffering on sentient creatures when we
create certain types of
a transgene
?



Will transgenic interventions in humans create physical or
behavioural

traits that may or may not be readily distinguished from
what is usuall
y perceived to be

human

?


If the blending of nonhuman animal and human DNA results,
intentionally or not, in
transgenic

entities possessing degrees of
intelligence or sentience never before seen in nonhuman animals,
should these entities be given rights

and special protections?



What unintended personal, social, and cultural consequences could
result?



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Will these interventions redefine what it means to be

normal

?



Who will have access to these technologies, and how will scarce
resources be alloca
ted?


Many of these questions not only provide a moral dilemma in which
precedent and tradition have little answer, but also present a developing
legal mine
-
field, especially in the area of potential litigation. Some of
these issues are taken up under the
upcoming chapters.


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Some individuals have argued that crossing species boundaries is
unnatural, immoral, and in violation of God’s laws. This argument
presumes that
species boundaries are fixed and readily delineated.
However, a recent issue of the
American Journal of Bioethics

reflects that
the notion of species boundaries is a hotly debated topic. Some
bio
ethicists

have pointed out there are a variety of species co
ncepts:
biological, morphological, ecological, typological, evolutionary,
phylogenetic, to name a
few. All

of these definitions of what a species is
reflect changing theories and
the varying purposes for
which different species are
used by individuals.


Wh
ile the issue of the
morality of crossing species
boundaries reflects differing
worldviews

and may be
conceptually unclear, there are
known risks associated with
xenotransplantation of
transgenic cells or
organs
from

animals to humans. For example, there i
s a small but significant risk
of the transmission of usually fatal zoonotic diseases, such as bovine
spongiform encephalopathy (also known as

mad cow disease

), porcine
endogenous retroviruses (PERVs), and Nipah
encephalitis. The

introduction of these di
seases to the human population could have
devastating consequences. The Food and Drug Administration
have

banned xenotransplantation trials using nonhuman primates until the
procedure has been adequately demonstrated to be safe and ethical issues
have been

sufficiently publicly discussed.



Researcher In A Genetic Laboratory


7



The risks and benefits of the experimental use of animals need to
be discussed as well. Similarly, by combining animal DNA and human
DNA with plant DNA, do we run the risk of creating new diseases for
which there is no tr
eatment? The long
-
term risks to the environment are
unknown. Various
bio ethicists
, environmentalists, and animal rights
activists have argued that it is wrong to create

monsters


or animals that
would suffer as a result of genetic alternation (for exampl
e, a pig with no
legs), and that such experimentation should be banned.



The Silenced Plea


Among the many victims of these artificial mutations, farm animals
suffer the most.


Their entire lives are locked insid
e factory warehouses,
manipulated by machines as if their sole purpose to be born was to be
harvested by man. They never have a chance to see the sky or smell the
earth. They can never experience the pleasure or the freedom of living
beings like our pets,
the wildlife, or us.
Farm animals are subjected to life long
abuse by the most atrocious, appalling
manipulation invented by agribusiness.
Being labelled as food animals causes
their utter misfortune, but they are still
sentient beings not so different tha
n we
are.


The super pig, a product of
genetic engineering, is a sick animal, fattened artificially by human
growth hormone. This super pig must endure side effects including
crippling arthritis and distorted vision caus
ed by the human growth genes
that makes them cross
-
eyed. Pigs are being modified with human genes
so that the organs of their offspring can be transplanted into humans.
Soon, in addition to factory pig farms, there will be pig organ farms. A
new creature c
alled a GEEP, is part goat and part sheep. In nature, the
two species never mate, but our modern alchemists have already
perfected such a new species that never
existed before.

And then there is the case of the
ordinary chicken. The modern bird has been
b
red to grow at twice its normal rate. Its
legs can no longer carry its massive body
weight, and the animal suffers leg pain and

A Super Pig


A Poultry Farm


8



deformities as well as an enormous strain on its heart and lungs. Often
these chickens experience heart failure before the age o
f six weeks. Many
other die due to rampant infectious diseases caused by intensive breeding.
A transgenic chicken is engineered with a cow's growth hormone gene,
which imbalances its entire metabolism. One cannot imagine the intensity
of suffering caused b
y such mutations.

Are farm animals not part of the animal kingdom sanctified by
nature? They also have their special journey on Earth and deserve equal
compassion and protection.


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?
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The genetic selection and
breeding of

human beings to
produce predetermined traits is
known as eugenics. Any racist or
government policy that promotes a
genetically tailored human race is
inherently evil, as individuals, with
all their diverse characteristics, are
not respected, nor valued, a
nd are seen merely as the property of the
State. In such cases, a human being is reduced to the status of a non
-
being
-

a non
-
person being denied the right to develop individual, full human
potential with the right to make free, informed decisions. Eugenic
s relies
on flawed assumptions and ideologies to under gird it, which in
themselves are sources of inequality and injustice.


Several
bio ethicists

have called for a ban on species
-
altering
technology that would be enforced by an international
tribunal. Pa
rt

of the
rationale for a ban is the concern that such technology could be used to
create a slave race, that is, a race of
sub humans

that would be exploited.
In April 1998, scientists Jeremy Rifkin and Stuart Newman, who are both
opposed to genetically mo
dified organisms (GMOs), applied for a patent
for a

humanzee,” part human and part chimpanzee, to fuel debate and to
draw attention to potential abuses on this issue. The United States Patent
and Trademark Office (USPTO) denied the patent on the grounds t
hat it
violated
an a
mendment
of

the United States Constitution, which prohibits
slavery.


What constitutes a human being? A genetic definition is not very
helpful, given the variability of gene sequences between individuals. A
species definition is contro
versial, as mentioned earlier. If we look to

9



characteristics for a definition, there are many characteristics that humans
share with primates and other animals. If we create a being that has the
ability to speak and perhaps even reason but looks like a dog

or a chimp,
should that being be given all the rights and protection of a human being?
Some
bio ethicists

argue that the definition of

human being” should be
more expansive and protective, rather than more restrictive. Others argue
that definitions that
are more expansive could be denigrating to
humanity’s status and create a financial disincentive to patenting
creations that could be of use to humanity. The question of whether or not
the definition should be more expansive or more restrictive will have t
o
be considered as courts, legislatures, and institutions address laws
regarding genetic discrimination.


In a similar vein, the International Olympic Committee has
expressed concern that athletes will soon employ genetic engineering to
get an
edge. If

in
dividuals are willing to genetically manipulate their
children to make them better athletes, then it’s likely individuals will be
willing to manipulate their children to be brighter, better looking, more
musically inclined, or whatever the parents think wo
uld give them an
advantage. Opponents of genetic manipulation argue that by allowing this
we run the risk of creating a race of
super humans
, changing what it
means to be normal and increasing the
ever widening

gap between the
haves and the have
-
nots. Prop
onents of genetic manipulation argue that
currently parents can and do give their children advantages by sending
them to better schools or giving them growth hormone and that banning
genetic manipulation is a denial of individual liberties. These arguments

also reflect the opposing philosophies regarding how scarce resources
should be allocated.

















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Perhaps one of the more morally
clear
-
cut areas lies in the use of genetics in
the development of biological weapons.
One only has to witness the world panic
caused by the various threats in using a
biological weapon such as ant
hrax. The
potential exists for bacterial cells
artificially to have new genes inserted into
them to enhance their pathenogenicity.


Equally frightening is that theoretically an
army can be made immune to a specific
disease such as anthrax, and consequently

allow that same disease to be
dispersed into enemy territory. Such scenarios cannot be justified from
any religious or socio
-
political context. As a point of clarification, it also
must be noted that biological weapons can be produced without the use of
g
ene technology; however, such technology can greatly increase the
efficiency of production of altered pathogens as well as their virulence.
Nevertheless, the use of biological weapons whether conventionally
produced or genetically engineered remains morall
y repugnant


It is generally acknowledged that secret work is going forward in
many countries to develop genetically engineered bacteria and viruses for
biological warfare. International terrorists have already begun seriously
considering their use. It is
almost impossible to regulate because the same
equipment and technology that are used commercially can easily and
quickly be transferred to military application.


Scientists in general have voiced concern about biological warfare.
Just as it is immoral for

one human being to own another in slavery, so





Symbol For Biohazard


11



too it is deemed as immoral and unethical for one group to have exclusive
rights to the information gained from HGP (Human Genome Project)
over another. Such information should be the property of all humanity,

not just the property of an affluent section within it. An additional ethical
concern is that the HGP, given its scientific nature, aims to dissect
humanity at a molecular level, and as such has obvious limitations. The
complexity of human life must not b
e recognised solely in terms of its
biochemistry, but should be recognised in terms of the holistic nature of
what makes humanity truly human. One cannot reduce life merely to the
sum of its chemical components. It is much more than that.



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Outbreaks of infectious diseases in 1997 among farm animals all
over the world has caused researchers to worry that we are due for
anot
her global epidemic, primarily owing to the over use of antibiotics.
Two strains of E. coli as well as Staphylococcus bacteria now
contaminate meat, poultry and diary products. Genetic engineering can
greatly compound this problem. Laboratory contained tra
nsgenic
organisms when released into the environment are capable of spreading
across species barriers and creating new diseases. A new danger is that
they can easily develop multiple antibiotic resistance. In recent years old
diseases like cholera, malaria

and tuberculosis are coming back in new
strains resistant to treatment. At the same time new pathogens are arising.
To cope with this, medical laboratories will have to sacrifice billions
more animals for medical experimentation. What befalls other creatu
res
also befalls us.








Some Deadly Pathogens


12



In the future, allergy specialists will have to study gene behaviour
in order to treat new allergies, because genetic engineering involves
adding new proteins to artificia
lly altered food products. This can
aggravate allergies since proteins cause

most allergies. We are becoming guinea pigs and without our consent
being herded into the giant laboratory of biotechnology.








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A
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r


Mono
-
agriculture, the pr
oduction of a few selected crops for mass
production, itself is an artificial manipulation of nature. Along with the
heavy spray of pesticide and herbicide it is abusive to the soil and
threatens biodiversity. Planting bio engineered herbicide resistant cr
ops,
which is one of the main projects of genetic engineering will only allow
farmers to spray higher level of herbicides without damaging crops. A
vicious cycle will be created that will seriously contaminate our
environment and poison animals.

Another d
anger is that biotechnology promises us a new variety of
disease resistant crops. Transgenic crops contain genes from viruses,
bacteria, animals and other plants. For example, transgenic tomatoes and
strawberries contain the antifreeze gene from Arctic fis
h so they are better
frost resistant. Such bizarre, surreal combinations not only can disrupt the
host genetic functions but also can cause confused, chaotic biochemical
mutations in the plants.





When transgenic crops cross pollinate with
wild plants, it can
cause migration of their gene traits, including making them resistant to
antibiotics. In time this migration will lead to new mutations and the
fields will be eventually taken over by the super grass created by our
genetic indiscretion.


The production of new lab crops in developed countries poses a
threat to the livelihood of millions of farmers in undeveloped countries.
For example, the lab product of coca butter and a new sugar substitute
could put ten million farmers in poor countrie
s out of work. The new
13



product will not help farmers in poor countries who cannot afford such
technology. The increased crops mainly benefit the countries already
living in abundance, and the profit primarily goes to the trans national
industries that are
forging new global commercial monopolies in the
name of

scientific advancement.

Transgenic salmon contains genes from Arctic sea flounder, which
enables them to grow six times larger and faster. Yet eventually these
salmon can escape into the wild and ca
use unpredictable ecological
disruption. The DNA of a virus can pass through even the gut of mice and
find its way into every kind of cell, creating genetic disturbances
including cancer, a disease that more than thirty years of medical research
has been u
nable to find the cure.

A gene can replicate indefinitely, spread and combine. We have no
means to stop this process but must let it pass on in its invisible ways.
When a massive load of virus genes combines with wild relatives it can
result in creating
super viruses that can lead to deadly diseases. Dr. Mae
-
Wan Ho from the Open University biology department in the United
Kingdom believes that
"
a vector currently used in fish has a framework
from marine leukaemic virus, which causes leukaemia in mice, but

can
infect all mammalian cells. Vectors used in genetic engineering can infect
a

wide range of species. It's a bad science and a bad business making
dangerous alliance.
"

















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In conclusion, it is evident that th
e science of genetic engineering
and manipulation is already available. It will shape society now and in the
future. Theologians and ethicists have a vital role to play in proclaiming
the dignity and the rights of each human person. They should endeavour
t
o understand the complexities of the emerging sciences and must work
closely with philosophers, jurists, scientific bodies, medical associations
and the providers of genetic technologies, so that

workable guidelines,
code of ethics, and regulations are ena
cted that will prohibit certain
negative and destructive applications of the technology.


Both genetic technology providers and recipients need to clearly
appreciate that this is a
new

technology
-

and much is still hidden in the
realm of the unknown. Cau
tion, reasoned use, appraisal and re
-
appraisal
need to be exercised to ensure that the technology is not misused.


Transgenics and genetic engineering present intriguing and
difficult challenges for 21st century scientists and ethicists. Until we as a
soci
ety or, perhaps, as a global entity can agree on what beings, human or
otherwise, are worthy of moral and legal status and respect, we can
expect intense cross
-
disciplinary debate and discussion as new intelligent
life is created through science and medici
ne.


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