Genetic Research and Biotechnology

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Genetic Research and Biotechnology

by

Milad Botros






HSS 101
-
002

Dr. Oguine

April 16, 2002



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1


Genetic Research and Biotechnology


In the last three decades, a huge jump of the genetic research and biotechnology has occurred
and as Max Born said in hi
s essay, "Reflection,” "But suddenly, about three hundred years ago, an
explosion of mental activity occurred: modern science and technology were born. Since then, they
have increased at an ever growing rate, probably faster than exponentially, and are now

transforming
the human world beyond recognition" (209). Similarly, Michael Bishop said in " Enemies of
Promise,” "We live in an age of scientific triumph. Science has solved many of nature’s puzzles and
greatly enlarged human knowledge” (237). Both scient
ists have written their essays before the present
controversies over genetic engineering and the biotechnology research, but it is amazing how true
their predictions are, considering the number of protests and fears generated by these researches.

The gene
tic engineering science has always been in the human mind since the famous French
scientist, Mendel, discovered the genetic dominant characters in some plants in the 16th century, and
he started cross changing the characters to get strong plants with fast
growth and more production.
Nowadays after discovering the DNA by the American scientist James Watson ". . . that the specific
pairing we have postulated immediately suggests a possible copying mechanism for the genetic
material" (138), genetic engineering

became a matter of interest for many scientists. Every scientist is
trying to use a new method either on plant or animal to increase its production. Some of these new

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2

methods are being used already, and many of the foods that people eat now are mass
-
produ
ced
through many methods of the genetic engineering to feed world’s overpopulation.


The world population is increasing tremendously because of medical progress. “Medicine
has overcome most plagues and epidemic diseases and it has doubled the human life sp
an within a
single generation: the result is catastrophic overpopulation” (Born 209). Because of the increase in
population the demand for food has also increased such as in India and China. Also the decrease of the
water resources, because of earth’s dry
ness, has worsened the food production situations as in
different parts of Africa. Therefore, population increase and earth’s dryness give very good reasons
for scientists to do their research on developing a new technology that will provide human needs.

T
here is no doubt that science and technology play important roles in human lives, and as
Born said "science has become an integral and most important part of our civilization, and has social,
economic, and political functions." (209) Before discussing whet
her the biotechnology and genetic
researches have a good impact on human lives, first, it is better to consider what they have to offer.
For example, in plants, biotechnology provides the types that have the same genetic character like the
original plants
but also, survive with little amount of water, have a self
-
defense mechanism against
insects and can grow faster under the normal condition. In animals, biotechnology has improved and
increased the production of milk and meat. As a result, a higher product
ion of food resources, to feed
the world’s overpopulation at cheaper prices, has been achieved, so any fear about this is unrealistic.


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3

In spite of such successes, some methods have bad side effects on humans, for example, the
insecticides, used in killin
g plant's pests such as arsenic, proves to be a carcinogenic material. As in
the essay, "Elixirs of Death,” by Rachel Carson, "Arsenic was the first recognized elementary
carcinogen " (9). Also, some scientists use female's hormones to give faster growth
to chickens and
cows, and to get more milk from cows. This method proves to have bad side effects on men and on
women. But nowadays, with the new genetic engineering techniques they can provide the same
quality with methods that are not harmful, however, s
ome people still have justifiable fears.

More fears of those new products that are being displayed every day in the markets are
developing. The fears come from many aspects; one is the safety of those methods on human race.
The fear increased after a dise
ase called “
mad cow”

affected genetically engineered cows in Britain
and that disease got transmitted to humans, causing deaths of many people. Nobody knows till now
the extent of the spread of that disease and whether it has a reliable treatment. Probably
, some of the
genetically engineered crops or animals may transmit any kind of diseases that will be discovered
later, and may be fatal to human race. Such fears can be genuine and justified.

Another fear is the fast spread of the biotechnology that may e
liminate the natural way of
plants and animal reproduction, and human food in future will be completely genetically engineered.
In this case, some countries that do not have this technology will depend on the other countries, which
will be a new method of

colonization. Also, any disease that occurs to these genetically engineered

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corps or animals will be widely spread and may cause extinction of such crops or animals. And those
that do not have that disease will be highly expensive. For example, after the
spread of the “
mad cow

disease in Europe, farmers had to destroy thousands of diseased cows trying to eliminate it. The prices
of meat, milk, butter and cheese showed a significant increase. Some countries, like Netherlands,
which depend on exporting cows

showed a high drop in their economy in the last three years, and the
United States started screening people traveling from Britain for fear of bringing “
mad cow”

disease
into this country, according to Dan Rather in CBS news.


Some of the fears of the sid
e effects of biotechnology are not proven yet, but some problems
caused by
“mad cow”

disease are realistic and justified. In spite of that, people should understand the
need for new food technology, and the scientists’ reasons behind these researches, and
stop blaming
scientists for the destructive effects as Born said, "Though I have not taken part in applying scientific
knowledge to destructive purposes . . . I feel my own responsibility" (Born 212). Instead, government
regulation should make it the job

of the FDA department to make sure of the safety of these methods.
In addition, the scientists should be ethically educated, so they do not cross their limits in an attempt
to achieve their personal goals and fame, but should be within the safety limits f
or the human beings.
So, genetic and biotechnology researches should continue till they get the best results which will have
proofs of no bad side effects that may result in further justified fears.



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Works Cited

Bishop, J. Michael. “Enemies of Promise.”
Th
e Presence of Others: Voices and Images That Call for
Response
. 3rd edition. Ed. Andrea Lunsford and John Ruskiewicz. New York: Bedford, 2000.
237
-
242.

Born, Max. “Reflections.”
The Example of Science: An Anthology for College Composition
. Ed.
Robert E. Ly
nch and Thomas B. Swanzey. Massachusetts: Simon and Schuster, 1997. 208
-
212.

Carson, Rachel. “Elixirs of Death”
The Example of Science: An Anthology for College Composition
.
Ed. Robert E. Lynch and Thomas B. Swanzey. Massachusetts: Simon and Schuster, 1997
.
208
-
212.

Rather, Dan.
CBS TV 6:30 PM Evening News
. Channel 2, 2001.

Watson, James. “Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acid”
The Example of Science: An Anthology for
College Composition
. Ed. Robert E. Lynch and Thomas B. Swanzey. Massachusetts: Simon
and Sc
huster, 1997. 135
-
138.