Sociology Index

Ethics, Biotechnology And Bioethics - The Future of Life

Biotechnology has surpassed the limits of human endeavour and enterprise. Life is no longer in God's domain. Man is entering the territory of the Almighty - rvp

Books on Biotechnology and Bioethics, Eugenics

'Female sperm' and 'male eggs' from skin cells may be possible. Katsuhiko Hayashi of Kyoto University in Japan and professor Mitinori Saitou used skin cells from mice to create primordial germ cells or PGCs. These cells were then developed into both sperm and eggs.

Scientists used these to create live-births via in vitro fertilisation. The technique may allow infertile women to have babies by creating eggs from their skin cells, and also make it possible for sperm and eggs cells to be created from either males or females, 'The Independent' reported.

World's first 'designer baby' soon

Los Angeles (IANS): A fertility clinic here has fulfilled Adolf Hitler's dream of creating a "dream race.''

The Los Angeles Fertility Institutes, run by Dr Jeff Steinberg who played a key role in the birth of the world's first test-tube baby Louise Brown in Britain in 1978, says it is ready to deliver the first 'designer baby' next year.

Using a technique called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), the clinic says it will allow would-be parents to choose the gender, skin, eye and hair colour and other physical traits of their babies. This service will be available only to couples seeking in-vitro fertilization (IVF), according to the clinic which has branches in New York and Mexico.

Many couples have queued up for this service, the clinic says. The institute, which claims to be already using the PGD technique for selection of gender with a success rate of more than 99 percent, says it will now extend it to choose genetic traits of offspring.

Ethical Issues

The impact of biotechnology on the life, environment, food and culture is bound to be enormous, encompassing the physical and the metaphysical world. Though biotechnology will help improve the quality of life, the ethical issues are bound to raise a lot of debate and opposition.

While some political leaders of the world are able to appreciate the biotechnological developments, all the religious pigheads are hell-bent on obstructing everything that seems to take away the given powers of God.

The cultural debates raging over biotechnology are purely because of the fears and longings embedded deep within the society's psyche. The media whips up the frenzy over surrogacy, stem cell research, cloning and organ transplantation, raising unintelligent and troubling questions like, can a child have two mothers?

Because detection of genetic predispositions has become more predictable, an individual's prospects in life can be figured out at birth. The ethical questions then arise as to privacy, access to genetic information and the impact of such knowledge on the individual's life.

Biotechnology has made it possible to detect and even treat, diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, sickle-cell anemia, Tay-Sachs disease, diabetes, and cystic fibrosis. But concerns were raised that genetic engineering could give rise to infectious organisms. Because of this stringent guidelines have been drawn up by the government with the help of leading scientists to regulate research in biotechnology. Experience of research has shown that the chances of constructing a disease-producing organism by accident are very remote. The fact that such pathogens require an extremely complex set of distinct characteristics, and are effective only when all are present, is not convincing enough for the paranoid lot. What is required is vigilance not paranoia.

It is important that we define ethics afresh before we talk about ethical issues.

Scientists have addressed the concerns and safe issues about biotechnology and genetic engineering. A special committee of the National Academy of Sciences specifically reviewed the issues on the introduction into the environment of organisms genetically engineered using recombinant DNA technology. They concluded that "there is no evidence that unique hazards exist either in the use of R-DNA technique or in the transfer of genes between unrelated organisms," and that "the risks associated with the introduction of R-DNA engineered organisms are the same kind as those associated with the introduction of unmodified organisms." They also concluded that rDNA techniques constitute a powerful and safe new means for the modification of organisms for the benefit of animals and humans. They also stated that there is adequate scientific knowledge to guide the safe and prudent use of such organisms outside research laboratories.

Critics are against diagnosing a genetic disorder before any treatment is available because it creates anxiety and frustration. Geneticists have isolated several disease-causing gene mutations and have even studied them in great detail without developing a treatment. Though scientists will eventually develop successful therapies, criticism is will remain.

Some General Benefits

Genetic counseling can provide advice on heritable diseases, and genetic screening of workers in possible risk industries is being considered. DNA probes are providing breakthroughs in early diagnosis of disease.

Biotechnological advances can even be used to track down criminals in assault cases based on the uniqueness of their DNA.

Improved preconceptual analysis of the parents' genotypes can provide couples with a broader range of options for family planning.

Some General Criticism

Critics of the HGP maintain that social and political mechanisms to regulate the ultimate outcomes are insufficient.

Critics argue that there never will be one definitive human sequence, because of the genetic variation between individuals,  This creates uncertainty about the appropriate definition of "normal," making the discussion of public policy issues difficult.

Many argue that controlling the manipulation of human genetic materials will not be easy.

Council for Responsible Genetics Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Council for Responsible Genetics (CRG), is a non-governmental, non-profit organization that fosters public debate and discussion about the social, ethical and environmental qualities that relate to genetics and genetic technology. The website features organizational insights and points to background materials and articles on various program topics, affords access to its' bimonthly magazine, GeneWatch, and points to books that are germane to the topic.

International Plant Genetic Resources Institute IPGRI is an international research institute with a mandate to advance the conservation and use of genetic diversity for the well-being of present and future generations. It is a Centre of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). Details are furnished on IPGRI's regional offices and networks, along with specific guides to programs and services from each.

Genetically Engineered Organisms: Public Issues Education Project Cornell Cooperative Extension explains the GEO-PIE Project (Genetically Engineered Organisms: Public Issues Education Project) from this web site. The project offers up educational materials on the environmental-ecological, social and health related issues associated with genetic engineering. The site includes discussions about risks and rewards; U.S. regulatory oversight; media and opinion; and is a source for fact sheets. Cornell Extension also identifies specific areas where genetic traits are being modified to certain crops.

Center for Genomics and Proteomics. The homepage link for Brown University's Center for Genomics and Proteomics. The website is primarily descriptive, indicating the Center's mission statement, and research areas; includes an events calendar and offers relevant links.

International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. The International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology conducts innovative research in the life sciences for the benefit of developing countries. It is dedicated to advanced research and training in molecular biology and biotechnology and holds out the prospect of advancing knowledge and applying the latest techniques in the fields of public health, energy production, industrial production of high added-value commodities, nutrition and environmental protection/remediation.

Information System on Genetic Resources. The Information System on Genetic Resources (GENRES) is maintained by the Information Centre for Biological Diversity (IBV) at the German Centre for Documentation and Information in Agriculture (ZADI). ZADI is an Information Service Provider operating under the auspices of the German Federal Ministry for Consumer Protection, Food and Agriculture (BMVEL). GENRES provides information about national, european and international activities on conservation and sustainable utilization of genetic resources for food, agriculture and forestry.

Unified States Regulatory Agencies: Unified Biotechnology Websites. This link, which connects to a service of the National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII), concentrates on those agricultural products that have emerged from biotechnology efforts and the various oversight systems that are currently in place. The website identifies the role of specific federal agencies, key laws and regulations influencing modern biotechnology, specific government contacts and capacity-building initiatives. A searchable database, the "Database of Completed Regulatory Agency Reviews" identifies genetically engineered crop plants intended for food, or feed, that have completed all the recommended or required reviews for use within the United States.

The Institute for Genomic Research - (TIGR), a bioinformatics-based non-profit institute involved in the structural, functional and comparative analyis of numerous genomes and gene-based products. Operating since 1992, TIGR studies specific viruses; pathogenic and non-pathogenic eubacteria; arachea and eukaryotes. There are a variety of ways to negotiate the website - the home page emphsizes news; the site offers background on the Insitute and the various databanks accessible from this location. The Institute has completed study on a few genome sequences but is also involved in many collaborations; hypertext pointers provide links to: software, a calendar of conferences, full text links to publications involving the Institute's research; background on educational resources, external links and external links - including a link to the "Genome News Network."

Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture - The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations addresses topics involving biotechnology from this link. The center of the page is devoted to news. Links exist on the left top side of the page. Website resources include FAO's Statement on Biotechnology. FAO Documents, in full text. Access and details to the "FAO Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture". Sectoral overviews (devoted to biotechnology matters and: agroforestry, crops, fisheries and livestock. An events calendar. An extensive glossary - providing short definitions, corresponding terms and related terms, contact listings, a link to various "country policy documents", a link to the FAO-BioDeC database (BIOtechnologies in DEveloping Countries) and to external links.

Human Genome News - Human Genome News is a newsletter of the U.S. Human Genome Project sponsored by the genome program of the Department of Energy Office of Environmental Research. HGN is intended to facilitate communication among genome researchers and to inform persons interested in genome research.

Food Safety Topic - Agricultural Biotechnology. This page offers information about agricultural biotechnology in food safety research. Included is a general description of the uses of agricultural biotechnology, as well as links to other useful online resources. The links direct users to helpful fact sheets, reports, conference information, organizations, databases/listserves, educational tools, and journals and other printed materials. This page is maintained by the Food Safety Research Information Office at the National Agricultural Library. The page was created in June, 2003.

Transgenic Crops : An Introduction and Resource Guide. This web site aims to provide balanced information and links to other resources on the technology and issues surrounding transgenic crops (also known as genetically modified or GM crops). Includes links to related web sites (including regulatory agencies and advocacy groups) and documents.

Biotechnology Regulatory Services - USDA-APHIS APHIS. (Animal and Plant Health and Inspection Services) regulates the movement, importation, and field testing of genetically engineered organisms (GEOs) through permitting and notification procedures. In addition, APHIS Veterinary Biologics inspects biologics production establishments and licenses genetically engineered products. Other responsibilities are listed under "Local Subjects".

GenomeNet - Bioinformatics Center - Kyoto University. Founded in 1991, GenomeNet is a Japanese network of database and computational services for genomic research into molecular and cellular biology. The Bioinformatics Center of the Institute for Chemical Research, Kyoto University, on the other hand, was established in April 2001. The Center promotes basic and applied research in bioinformatics, to facilitate education and training in bioinformatics, and integrates genomic information and biomedical knowledge.

Feeding the World / A Look at Biotechnology & World Hunger - Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology. This document, a full-text issue brief formatted as a pdf-formatted file, has been prepared by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology. The publication analyzes global food production issues and its relationship with hunger throughout the world. It offers insights into both the cost and benefits of innovation and relates these concerns to risk management.

University of Wisconsin : Biotechnology Center
A homepage link to the University of Wisconsin Biotechnology Center (UWBC). The Center offers both general and specific details about its' history and research activities. A key feature is a series of online lectures which can be accessed using an Apple Quicktime plugin. A staff directory and an events calendar complements the home page and each of UWBC's facilities offers web services.

Office of Biotechnology Activities : National Institutes of Health
The Office of Biotechnology Activites at the National Institute of Health is principally engaged with human genetics but also broadly examines biotechnology, particularly with regard to recombinant DNA. This Home Page link also points to three Advisory Committees and offers descriptive explantions of the Office's work and activity.

Partnership for Plant Genomics Education
The Partnership for Genomics Education (PPGE) is dedicated to improving educational opportunities in the fields of plant genomics and biotechnology. With support from the National Science Foundation, and others, site visitors can monitor PPGE's work in professional development; student internships; curriculum and course material development; educational software development. The partnership efforts are directed at enhancing experiences for high school and college students; the site is maintained at the University of California (Davis).

The BioPortfolio Home Page is an interactive service of BioPortfolio Limited, based in Cambridge, United Kingdom. This link affords information/networking and promotional insights into industries associated with the biosciences, life sciences and biotechnology industries. BioPortfolio seeks to meet the demand for intelligence in these areas through a host of services. The website is presently indexing thousands of press relaeses through a newsfeed that is updated every thirty minutes. The "BioCorporate Directory" identfies bio/phramecutical companies; "BioJournal" identifies recent news, scientific articles and reports; "BioWeb" and "BioNews" are interactive resources for WWW sites and news.

Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology
Perceiving the need for informed public dialogue, the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology seeks to offer independent, objective and credible information on transformative technologies affecting agriculture. Funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and working with the University of Richmond, the Initiative offers its' serves through this Home Page. The website features full-text reports; details on workshops and conferences; an opportunity to register with the newsroom and converse with the Initiative; or to subscribe to an e-mail list. The Initiative offers background on its' mission and organization and is currently working on a consensus project, The Stakeholder Forum. The Home Page features a subject index, news reports and items of interests.

International Society for Plant Molecular Biology
The International Society for Plant Molecular Biology (ISPMB) was formed in response to developments occuring in the displines of plant biochemistry and genetics. This Home Page explains ISPMB's function; has a Membership Directory (with contact information); has announcements (events); provides full text content (the Society's publication "Plant Molecular Biology Reporter" is online from 1996); and has external links of interest. ISPMB survey's patents and patent publications in the field of plant transformation and regeneration and communicates this to it's membership in patent tables.

Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics
Home Page link for the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics (SIB). A banner at the top of this website will allow site visitors to access details about the Institute, it's research groups and course offers. SIB was established in 1998 and it seeks to promote research, enhance the development of data banks and computer, and assist the bioinformatics community. The Home Page places emphasis on relevant news items, points to SIB servers, databases, software tools, employment opportunities and meetings and events. SIB identifies its' partners and provides links to their sites.

Bioinformatics Laboratory -- Idaho State University
A link describing the Evolutionary, Ecological, and Environmental Genomics Group (EGG) at Idaho State University's Bioinformatics Laboratory. EEG is affiliated with ISU's Molecular Research Core Facility (MRCF); all of whom are concerned with management data and analysis related to molecular level research and engineering. EEG engagements also includes bioinformatic support for evolutionary and ecological research, including work into genomics and proteomics.

Biotechnology : Food & Agriculture -- Pennsylvania State University
Penn State University's Cooperative Extension, working with the College of Agricultural Sciences, has created this website to blend both educational and research-based information on biotechnology matters which touch on agriculture and food. The website is a source for articles, editorials and fact sheets. It also includes a glossary of terminology. Includes an intranet service.

Agricultural Biotechnology - Fact Sheet

Plant Biotechnology Institute -- National Reserach Council Canada
Canada's Plant Biotechnology Institute (PBI), working in alliance with National Research Council Canada, is a center of excellence for plant biotechnology. Particularly noteworthy is PBI's efforts involving the metabolic modification of oilseeds. The Institute is pursuing the development of platform technologies, examining the genomics and proteomic aspects of canola. Focus also is placed on Brassica, cereal and grain legumes. Technologies have been developed involving transgenic wheat and barley. Stable transformations are taking place with legumes. All of PBI's research groups are described; the website has a glossary to aid in plant biotechnology terminology and most issues of PBI Buletin are online.

AGBIOS is a Canadian company engaged in public policy, regulatory studies and risk assessment as it relates to biotechnology developments. Consultants within AGBIOS provide advice on these matters and promote biosafety capacity development. The website includes the "GM Crop Database" which generates safety-related information. An online module discusses livestock feeds derived from genetically modified crops. A bibiographic database identifies citations relevant to environmental, human food, and livestock feed. Food safety assessment is addressed through a case study and a module on Canadian-U.S. regulation of biotechnology products. Full text articles and a news service are online.

Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Features the online version of "Applied and Environmental Microbiology." Applied and Environmental Microbiology publishes a substantial share of the most significant current research in the areas of biotechnology, microbial ecology, food microbiology, and industrial microbiology. Highlighting research findings applicable to the development of new processes or products, AEM is a broad-based journal that is indispensable to those whose basic work has implications of near-term practical benefit. Sections include: Genetics and Molecular Biology, Enzymology and Protein Engineering, Physiology and Biotechnology, Food Microbiology, Mycology, Environmental and Public Health Microbiology, General Microbial Ecology, Plant Microbiology, Invertebrate Microbiology, Methods, Minireviews.

Animal Biotechnology Center -- University of Minnesota
A home page link for the Animal Biotechnology Center at the University of Minnesota. Although much of the website is under development [mid April 2005], the Center describes its work and efforts. These include: improved animal well-being; improved food safety; exploring animal contribution to human health; fulfillment in microbial genetics; comparative and functional animal genomics; modulation and enhancement of animal growth and health; improving upon disease resistance; seeking improvement and sustainabilty for agricultural production.

Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition - Biotechnology
Articles on biotechnology issues including, "Policy for Food Developed by Biotechnology, Food and Drug Administration's(FDA) 1995; Statement of Policy: Foods Derived From New Plant Varieties (PDF) Federal Register(1992); Are Bioengineered Foods Safe? FDA Consumer, January-February 2000. Links to government and non-government sources.

The Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute
Affiliated with the University of Pretoria in South Africa, the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) is a University-based research institute directed in a way that builds on on the University's base of human resources - infusing skills with forestry to improve South Africa's knowledgebase. This homepage provides background on the Institute's work and activities.

Electronic Journal of Biotechnology
A source for full-text information, the Electronic Journal of Biotechnology is published three times yearly and has been in publication since 1998. This Home Page links to the publication; which is a copyrighted document that is supported by UNESCO and the MIRCEN network. The journal covers a wide array of topics involving biotechnology, pointers on the page identify the Journal's editorial board, there is FAQ and information for authors. The journal has a feature appealing to broad public interest, which are shorter versions of other papers. The web site also points to a wide array of external web sites designed to appeal to site visitors.

Biotechnology and Globalization -- Center for International Development
A link to Harvard University's Center for International Development; devoted to the role of agricultural biotechnology on the economies throughout the world. Particular focus is placed on developing coutries.