Issues and Dilemmas of Biotechnology: A Reference Guide

Issues and Dilemmas of Biotechnology: A Reference Guide

Issues and Dilemmas of Biotechnology: A Reference Guide

Issues and Dilemmas of Biotechnology: A Reference Guide

Synopsis

Recent advances in biotechnology in areas as diverse as agriculture, the environment, food, and healthcare have led to much debate and media attention. This unique reference resource for advanced high school students and teachers explores the science behind these new technologies and examines the stakeholders and their stakes in the various debates. The author presents views of scientists, doctors, insurance companies, and big businesses, among others, on such issues as genetic testing, patenting of human gene sequences, cloning, and genetically engineered food.

Excerpt

Advances in biotechnology are featured on the news and inspire the formation of many commissions and government advisory committees and even more legal wrangles. Biotechnology, the use of biological processes to produce a product or process for human use and benefit, is often portrayed as a revolutionary, even dangerous, way of viewing and using nature and its elements. It is also an ancient activity. the making of beer, wine and cheese are essentially biotechnologies, though some may question the benefit of wine and beer and indeed others may even question the benefit of cheese. the domestication, breeding and selection of plants and animals for human use using conventional methods also are biotechnologies.

The biotechnology activities that raise concerns and are the stuff of headlines and news programs generally involve the application of recent discoveries in the biological sciences to alter the properties of a living organism by altering its genes, with the goal of producing a product or process for human use. Another term for the process of altering genes is genetic engineering, because the way in which useful biotechnologies are created often involves the alteration of the properties of an organism by engineering its genetic material. the difference between science and engineering is important in thinking about biotechnology. Science can be defined as “the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation and theoretical explanation of natural phenomena” (American Heritage Dictionary, 2nd College Edition). Engineering is “the application of scientific and mathematical principles to practical ends such as the design, manufacture and operation of efficient and economical structures, machines, processes and systems” (American Heritage Dictionary, 2nd College Edition). Freeman Dyson, a physicist and scientist wrote, “A good scientist is a person with original ideas. a good engineer is a person who makes a design that works with as few original

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