Why is biotechnology an issue?

Biotechnology is a scientific field in constant evolution. While it has many benefits, such as reducing our environmental footprint and helping to treat diseases and ailments, it is not without drawbacks. The four main concerns revolve around ethical, security, bioterrorism and environmental issues. Environmental biotechnology has the potential to help mitigate pollution by using microbes and their by-products, rather than chemical methods, to treat solid, liquid and gaseous wastes.

Plastic pollution, one of the most pressing environmental concerns, can also be addressed through biotechnology. For example, some bacterial enzymes can digest the raw material used to produce single-use bottles for beverages. In addition, bioplastics can be produced with renewable raw materials, such as plants, vegetables and other recycled forms of waste, which can be environmentally friendly alternatives to petroleum-based plastics. Biotechnological health is going through what all other emerging scientific disciplines are experiencing: the challenge of defining its ethical limits.

Research, cost and privacy issues raise concerns that third party payers, employers, suppliers and policy makers will face in the coming years. As the first decade of the 21st century reaches its midpoint, Biotechnology Healthcare has identified five topics that dominate ethical discussions about biotechnological medicine. 1 These issues will continue to generate controversy in the near future, forcing third-party payers, employers and union purchasers, and healthcare providers to address the political implications of some or all of them for years to come. In a 2002 article published in Epidemiology Review, Jeremy Sugarman, MD, MPH, professor of bioethics and medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, wrote: “It is critical to ensure that research is conducted in a responsible manner throughout the study cycle, from the way participants are selected to the way data is entered, analyzed and reported.

Attention must be paid to every aspect of research conduct for the success of the scientific enterprise and to protect study participants and others from unnecessary harm. Arturo L. Caplan, PhD2, who heads the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, highlighted in a recent interview with Biotechnology Healthcare that researchers must ensure that clinical trials are not distorted by inconsistent arrangements. In addition, he says, volunteers should not be recruited in a way that suggests that they are being paid bribes, as opposed to reimbursing legitimate expenses.

Protecting patient privacy is a growing concern, thanks to technology that allows the human genome to be decoded. However, as scientists become experts at deciphering a person's genetic makeup, compromising information about a person's future health is increasingly likely to become available. For example, you may know that a 5-year-old child will develop serious heart disease later in life, but does a potential employer have a right to know? How will this knowledge affect a person's ability to get a job, insurance, or a mortgage? Should insurers and others have such information? This is a thorny problem destined to become even thornier. However, even this statement leaves open the question of the extent to which the needs of society can eclipse a person's rights.

This is especially true in the wake of the Patriot Act. By reflecting the public's fears of terrorism, federal law is triggering an intense debate about people's right to privacy and the security concerns of society in general. With legal challenges pending, it's easy to see how even a managed care ethical statement can cause difficulties. This should come as no surprise.

Stem cell research is anathema to the religious right and made its way in the recent presidential elections. National Library of Medicine 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20894.As the first decade of the 21st century reaches its midpoint, Biotechnology Healthcare has identified five topics that dominate ethical discussions about biotechnological medicine. The agreement has two protocols, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the Nagoya Protocol, which promote the safe and equitable use of biotechnology with respect to biodiversity. To ensure that biotechnology-related research is conducted in a responsible manner, the international community must collaborate to develop rules that regulate the protection and safety of experiments, formulate the long-discussed verification and monitoring mechanism under the Convention on Biological Weapons, and incorporate clauses that establish mechanisms of accountability and accountability in the event of violations.

In general, the Cartagena Protocol seeks to balance the tendency of advances in biotechnology to help countries protect their biodiversity and develop economically, with the threats that biotechnology represents to biodiversity and human health if anything should go wrong. When he coined the term in 1919, farmer Karl Ereky described “biotechnology” as “all lines of work through which products are produced from raw materials with the help of living beings”. Along with enthusiasm, the rapid progress of research has also raised questions about the consequences of advances in biotechnology. To better understand the security threats that arise from recent advances in biotechnology, it is worth returning to the above-mentioned hypothetical Ebola scenario.

In the coming decades, scientists will use the tools of biotechnology to manipulate cells with increasing control, from the precise editing of DNA to the synthesis of entire genomes from their basic chemical components. Although the risks of biotechnology have been a concern for decades, the increasing rate of progress (from low-cost DNA sequencing to rapid gene synthesis and accurate genome editing) suggests that biotechnology is entering a new area of maturity in terms of both beneficial applications and the most worrying risks. The world has already seen some worrying historical precedents regarding the deliberate misuse of biotechnology to develop biological weapons, cases of accidental releases of living organisms in laboratories and cases of infections acquired in laboratories. For example, when state actors deliberately misuse biotechnology, states signatory to the Convention on Biological Weapons, in the absence of a verification and monitoring protocol, can only consult each other or file a complaint with the UN Security Council.

Globally, treaties, conventions and guidelines have been drafted to ensure the fair and transparent promotion of biotechnology, but these mechanisms do not provide the oversight necessary to promote the responsible conduct of biotechnology-related research. However, with improvements in knowledge about the role of individual plant genes, modern biotechnological techniques can be used to add, delete or edit specific genes in order to produce the desired variety, thus reducing the possibility of unwanted effects. For now, many of the benefits of biotechnology are concrete, while many of the risks are still hypothetical, but it's better to be proactive and know the risks than to wait for something to go wrong first and then try to address the harms. For example, the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the promising role that biotechnology can play in this way.

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Pattie Fritzler
Pattie Fritzler

Hipster-friendly tv evangelist. Professional sushi junkie. Unapologetic zombie fan. Typical internet maven. Professional music specialist. Subtly charming social media nerd.

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