You just got hired as a scientist in a biotechnology company. Your first task is to clone human erythropoietin gene for the purpose of erythropoietin production as biopharmaceutical product to treat anemia. How would you undertake this task? Be sure to justify all your decisions and choices to complete this task.
Biotechnology is relatively new in weed science and although HRCs have been rapidly adopted much is still to be learned about their effects on weed science and weed management techniques (Duke, 1998). The science has been market driven toward development of transgenic crops that allow use of patented broad spectrum herbicides that contribute to corporate profit (Gressel, 2000) and crop production. To date, not much has been done to use the potential of biotechnology to develop weed management systems that are not dependent on chemicals. These could include enhancing crop competitiveness for nutrients, light, or water or by exploiting natural allelopathy (Gressel). Gressel also suggests that biotechnology could be used to modify weed populations to make them less competitive and to make hypervirulent biocontrol agents that are safe but not able to spread (they are self-limiting). These innovative ideas show biotechnology’s potential but such achievements may only occur when research is publicly funded rather than profit driven. Profit is not evil, but the quest for profit inevitably leads research in directions that may not be environmentally, socially or politically desirable. The primary GE weed management technology (incorporation of herbicide resistance) has changed the herbicide used but has not reduced inclusion of herbicides as the essential element of weed management programs. Similarly, no GE crops have reduced the need for petroleum-based fertilizer to achieve (perhaps assure is a better word) yield goals. GE technology is best adapted to large scale, industrial, monocultural agriculture, which, depending on the facts one accepts and the view they represent, may or may not be the best way to feed the world, protect human health and the environment and achieve long-term sustainability. There are notable exceptions to this view (see Arguments in favor of biotech, above, and Borlaug, 2001; Sahai, 1997; Tonniessen et al., 2003; and Wambugu, 1999, 2000). Acceptance by big-farms has led editorial writers of the Economist, a magazine that traditionally supports capitalist, industrial entrepreneurs, to worry that GE crops will inevitably destroy small farms and lead to control of a significant portion of the natural world (Anonymous, 2010). They go on to say that the fact (no source is given) that “90% of the farmers growing GE crops are comparatively poor and in developing countries is sinister not salutary. Monsanto’s dominance in America’s soyabean market, seems to suggest a goal of world domination.”
At this point it is worthy of note that in some quarters, it is fashionable to excoriate the pesticide chemical industry as one that takes advantage of farmers and the environment. My experience has been that people in the pesticide chemical industry are capitalists and idealists. They are driven by the quest for profit but are optimistic that their work may benefit the world. It has made and will continue to make significant contributions to agriculture’s moral obligation to feed the world. Modern agriculture would not have achieved what it has without the aid of the research and discoveries of the pesticide chemical industry.
The agricultural view is that genetically modified crops are essential to the moral obligation to feed to world and they will be lost without technological advancements that solve the problem of weed resistance, provide clear benefits, and are part of a sustainable system. Improved technology will solve the problems technology created. An ethical foundation that guides consideration of potential health, environmental, sustainability, and social effects is absent.