4 Top Issues with Applications of Biotechnology

Following are the issues related to applications of Biotechnology:

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Ethical Issues:
Ethics include a set of standards by which a community regulates its behaviour and decides as to which activity is legitimate and which is not. Therefore, bioethics may be viewed as a set of standards that may be used to regulate our activities in relation to the biological world. Biotechnology, particularly recombinant DNA technology, is focussed on exploiting the biological world in ways that are usually unprecedented. Therefore, biotechnology connotations ranges from ‘unnatural’ to ‘detrimental’ to biodiversity. The main bioethical concerns pertaining to Biotechnology Application Examples are briefly mentioned as follows:

– Introduction of a transgene from one species into another species violates the ‘integrity of species’.
– Biotechnology may pose unforeseen risks to the environment, including risk to biodiversity. Thus it could disturb the existing ecological balance.
– Transfer of human genes into animals (and vice-versa) dilutes the concept of ‘humanness’.
– Use of animals in biotechnology causes great suffering to them.
– Scientists can not rule out the possibility of other biological damage. It can accidentally create new infectious agents.
– When animals are used for production of pharmaceutical proteins, they are virtually reduced to the status of a ‘factory’.
– It is disrespectful to living beings, and only exploits them for the benefit of human beings.

Biopatent for applications of biotechnology
A patent is the right granted by a government to an inventor to prevent others from commercially using his invention. A patent is granted for (a) an invention (including a product), (b) an improvement in an earlier invention, (c) the process of generating a product, and (d) a concept of design.
Initially, patents were granted for industrial inventions, etc. But at present, patents are being granted for biological entities and for products derived from them; these patents are called biopatents. Primarily, industrialised countries, like USA, Japan and members of European Union, are awarding biopatents.

Biopatents in applications of biotechnology

Theyare award for the following:
(i) strains of microorganisms, (ii) cell lines, (iii) genetically modified strains of plants and animals, (iv) various biotechnological procedures, (v) production processes (vi) products and (vii) product applications.

Biopiracy in applications of biotechnology
Many organizations and multinational companies exploit and /or patent biological resources or bioresources of other nations without proper authorization from the countries concerned (without access and benefit sharing agreements; ABA), this is known as biopiracy.The industrialised nations are rich in technology and financial resources but poor in biodiversity and traditional knowledge related to the utilisation of the bioresources. In contrast, developing nations are poor in technology and financial resources, but are rich in biodiversity and traditional knowledge related to bioresources.

There have been incidences where certain companies get the patents for products and technologies which involve the use of the genetic materials, plants and other biological resources that have long been identified, developed and used by farmers and indigenous people of a specific region/ country. Because of this, the Indian Government has set up organisations such as GEAC (Genetic Engineering Approval Committee), which will make decisions regarding the validity of GM research and the safety of introducing GM research, the safety of introducing GM- organisms for public services.

In 1997, an American company got patent rights on Basmati rice through the US patent and Trademark Office. This allowed the company to sell a ‘new’ variety j of Basmati, in the US and abroad. This ‘new’ variety of Basmati had actually been derived from Indian farmer’s varieties using Biotech Research. Indian Basmati was crossed with semi-dwarf ; varieties and claimed as an invention or a novelty.

An African plant, Pentadiplandra brazzeana produces a protein called brazzein and is produced using applications of biotechnology, which is approximately 2,000 times as sweet as sugar. In addition, brazzein is low calorie sweetener. Local people have known and used ; the super-sweet berries of this plant for centuries. But the protein brazzein was patented in USA. Subsequently, : the gene encoding brazzein was also isolated, sequenced and patented in USA.

Biowar created using applications of biotechnology

Biowar is the use of highly infectious pathogens, their : spores and toxins as agents of biological weapons against humans, crops and animals of enemy country. The agent (virus, bacterium, fungus, spores, toxin which is created using applications of biotechnology) is kept in a special container that keeps it in active/virulent state ; during delivery by missile or aircraft. Spray and powder are two common forms in which the bioweapon agent is delivered. Potential pathogens for bioweapons are Bacillus anthracis, Vibrio cholerae, small pox virus Pasteurellal Yersinia pestis, Botulinum toxin, etc.

Bioweapons are almost invisible, low cost weapons which can cause more casualties than conventional or chemical weapons. Possible defence against them is gas mask or respirator, protective shelter, vaccination, antibiotics, decontamination and sensitive detection systems. This can be used productively in Applications of Biotechnology in Medicine to create disease fighting systems, hence there are several Uses of Biotechnology in Medicine in Biotech Pharmaceuticals as well.

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