Ethics and Genetic Engineering - Bioethics

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Oct 22, 2013 (3 years and 7 months ago)

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Ethics and Genetic
Engineering

What Is Genetic
Engineering?


“Genetic Engineering” =
Creating organisms with novel
genetic sequences.


Reiss and Straughan 1996

Pest Resistance: Bt Corn

Herbicide Tolerance

“Roundup Ready”

Enhanced Nutrition

Golden rice

Commercial Value


Fast
-
growing
salmon

Ethical Arguments
About Biotechnology


Intrinsic
: Biotechnology is good/bad
in itself



Extrinsic
: Biotechnology is good/bad because of:


its

consequences


the motivations behind:


advocacy of biotech
or


opposition to biotech

Intrinsic Arguments
Against Biotechnology


Premise: Genetic engineering is
unnatural.


Conclusion: Therefore, genetic
engineering is intrinsically
wrong.


Is this a good argument?

Intrinsic Arguments
Against Biotechnology


Genetic engineering requires that we
take a reductionist view of life that
sees only
genes
, not
individuals
, as
important.


“From the reductionist perspective, life is merely
the aggregate representation of the chemicals
that give rise to it and therefore they see no
ethical problem whatsoever in transferring…even
a hundred genes from one species into the
heredity blueprint of another species.”


Jeremy Rifkin

Extrinsic Arguments
About Biotechnology


Biotechnology is good/bad because
of its
consequences
.


Three ways to evaluate
consequences:


Do no harm (avoid bad consequences).


Maximize good consequences and minimize
bad ones for all affected.


Justice: Fair distribution of good and bad
consequences among all affected.

Extrinsic Arguments
About Biotechnology


Biotechnology is good/bad
because of the motivations of its
proponents/opponents.

Extrinsic Arguments:
Motivations


Friends of the Earth
: “Golden rice may
never help poor farmers, but it could give
the beleaguered European biotech industry
a new grasp on life.”



Florence Wambugu
: “These critics [of
biotech], who have never experienced
hunger and death on the scale we sadly
witness in Africa, are content to keep
Africans dependent on food aid from
industrialized nations while mass
starvation occurs.”

Extrinsic Arguments
About Biotechnology


Environmental consequences


Human health consequences


Who benefits?


Who decides?

The Precautionary
Principle

“When an activity raises threats of harm to the
environment or human health, precautionary
measures should be taken even if some cause and
effect relationships are not fully established
scientifically.”


Wingspread Statement on the Precautionary
Principle, Jan. 1998


“Lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a
reason for postponing cost
-
effective measures to
prevent environmental degradation.”


Rio Declaration 1992

Image Credits


Bt Corn: United States General Accounting
Office. Genetically Modified Foods: Experts
view regimen of safety tests as adequate,
but FDA’s evaluation process could be
enhanced. May 2002.

Citations


Reiss and Straughan (1996),
Improving Nature?

(Cambridge
University Press).


Precautionary Principle: The Science
and Environmental Health Network,
http://www.sehn.org/precaution.html.