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Issues and Ethics in Biotechnology

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1 Issues and Ethics in Biotechnology

2 ETHICS Set of moral principles governing an individual’s action
Reflects morality (perception of what is right) Essential in making decisions

3 BIOETHICS Ethics relating to biology and medicine
“…ethical analysis of normative problems in the biomedical sciences, medical practices, and health care management.” Moral issues brought about by biological advances

4 Genetic Engineering The creation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) These GMOs are created for various purposes

5 Genetic Engineering GM plants GM Animals Pest and herbicide resistance
Enhanced nutrition Hardier varieties GM Animals Fast growth Creation of therapeutic proteins (drugs, vaccines)

6 Pest Resistance: Bt Corn

7 Herbicide Tolerance “Roundup Ready”

8 Enhanced Nutrition Golden rice
Dr. Ingo Potrykus and his team found a way to engineer rice so that the grain contains beta carotene, the precursor to vitamin A, which is not present in regular rice. The United Nations estimates that vitamin A deficiency affects more than 100 million children worldwide, and may be implicated in increased risks of maternal death. Golden rice might help alleviate vitamin A deficiency in countries where rice is a large part of the diet, but many who agree that vitamin A deficiency is a major health problem question whether golden rice is the appropriate solution.

9 Issues of plant GMOs GM crops may have adverse effects on human consumers Modified DNA from GM crops may spread to non-modified crops with bad consequences Weeds and pests may adapt and mutate to attack the GM crops, leading to more vicious weeds and pests

10 GM Animals Fast-growing salmon
“Scientists have created a genetically engineered variety of Atlantic salmon that grows to market weight in about 18 months, compared to the 24 to 30 months that it normally takes for a fish to reach that size.” (USFDA) “Purdue University animal scientist Bill Muir and biologist Rick Howard conducted a study funded by USDA on genetically engineered fish, which led them to warn of possible risks from transgenic fish escaping into nature. They worry that transgenic fish escaping from aquaculture facilities into the wild, for example, could damage native populations, even to the point of extinction. But Elliot Entis, president of A/F Protein, Inc., an international biotechnology firm based in Waltham, Mass., feels that environmental concerns can be addressed by producing transgenic fish in closed aquaculture systems (controlled, artificial environments) or by producing all female, sterile fish.” --Carol Lewis, A New Kind of Fish Story: The Coming of Biotech Animals”, Fast-growing salmon

11 Issues about transgenic animals
GM animals may damage wild populations GM animals may disrupt the ecological balance GM animals may have adverse effects on human consumers

12 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 Murder is intrinsically bad; we do not have to wait to see its consequences before proclaiming murder bad. Other actions may be morally neutral in themselves, so that any ethical evaluation of the action will depend on the consequences of the action.

13 Intrinsic Arguments Against Biotechnology
Premise: Genetic engineering is unnatural. Conclusion: Therefore, genetic engineering is intrinsically wrong. Is this a good argument? This is a common argument against GMOs. However, it is not clear that it is a good argument. Important questions to ask about this argument are: Is genetic engineering really unnatural? What does unnatural mean? Are all unnatural things also unethical? Surely airplanes are “unnatural,” so are they also unethical?

14 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. The three different ways of evaluating consequences are very different. For example, according to the principle that we should cause no harm, very many things would be unethical, including driving our cars (which causes environmental harm by burning fossil fuels and puts ourselves and others at risk of harm from accidents), for example. Maximizing good consequences and minimizing bad ones looks only at the aggregate effects of one’s actions, while the principle of justice requires an analysis of the distribution of consequences--are those who benefit from an action or policy also the ones who pay the costs or bear the risks? If not, it is possible that the policy or action is unjust.

15 Extrinsic Arguments About Biotechnology
Biotechnology is good/bad because of the motivations of its proponents/opponents.

16 Extrinsic Arguments About Biotechnology
Environmental consequences Human health consequences Who benefits? Who decides? These are just a few more questions that are relevant to the ethical evaluation of biotechnology, in no particular order.

17 Issues in DNA Sequencing
DNA sequencing – unmask the tendency to acquire a genetic disease Pros The individual can make lifestyle changes earlier to avoid disease The individual can apply for genetic treatment for such a disease Earlier detection can possibly help in psychological adjustments

18 Issues in DNA Sequencing
Cons The genetic data can be used by others for nefarious purposes If not guarded properly, the genetic data can become public Insurance companies may use the genetic data against the owner Fear of the possibility of genetic discrimination

19 Issues in Intellectual property
Who owns the right to the GMO? Is the intellectual property ownership fair? Was the intellectual property claim legitimate and proper? Will commercialization of the GMO/biotechnology lead to unfair practices?

20 EXERCISE Scientists at a government research institute in the Philippines have developed the Ultimate Rice in their work funded by Blackstar Industries. Ultimate Rice is a breed of rice capable of surviving floods and droughts, resistant to pests, fast-growing, and with high levels of vitamins. However, Blackstar Industries wants to market the rice on the market. The government wants to sell it cheap, while farmers want the government to give it to them for free.

21 EXERCISE Defend your positions as the:
Scientists who developed the Ultimate Rice (Rozul ) Blackstar Industries (Ruiz) Farmers looking to grow the Ultimate Rice (Espinosa) The government research institute () Government agency on intellectual property ()

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