Biosafety Protocol Is There A Need For

Biosafety Protocol: Is There A Need For One? Essay, Research Paper Biosafety Protocol: Is There A Need For One? By John M. Seguin Outline Thesis statement: An international biosafety protocol should be created to

Biosafety Protocol: Is There A Need For One? Essay, Research Paper

Biosafety Protocol: Is There A Need For One?

By John M. Seguin

Outline

Thesis statement: An international biosafety protocol should be created to

establish and maintain control over the products designed with biotechnology.

I. The existing laws and regulations that govern the release of

transgenic

organisms are inadequate or nonexistent.

A. The developed nations of the world are using regulations

that were designed to control and monitor crops created with

traditional technologies.

B. Biotechnology is regulated by three different agencies.

C. The undeveloped nations have virtually no regulations

governing transgenic organisms.

1. This indicates that biotechnological research can and is

being conducted in these countries without regulation.

2. There are many biotech companies based in developed

countries that have branches or joint ventures around

the world.

II. The potential risks of transgenic organisms to the environment

is still being determined.

A. Some experts warn that there is a danger that biotechnology

can create mutant hybrids.

B. Biotechnology has the potential to harm the economies of some

developing nations.

C. The last and possible the most important argument for an

international biosafety protocol is in the name of ignorance

and caution

III. The United States, Germany, Japan, and Australia are the only

countries opposed to the biosafety protocol.

IV. The need for a change in the world of agriculture is undeniable.

As the world moves closer to the 21st century, research and development

in the area of biotechnology has increased dramatically. According to Bette

Hileman of Chemical and Engineering News, the world population will increase by

3 billion people in the next thirty years while the amount of land available for

agriculture cannot be greatly expanded. “Biotechnology – specifically that

aspect involved in transferring genes from one species into the [DNA] of another

- has the potential to alleviate . . .” (8) this and many other problems facing

the world in the near future. Even though biotechnology has already shown

dramatic results in the creation of beneficial transgenic (genetically

engineered) species, many countries and researchers are “. . . quite leery about

the uses of biotechnology” (8). Therefore, an international biosafety protocol

should be created to establish and maintain control over the products designed

with biotechnology.

The existing laws and regulations that govern the release of transgenic

organisms are inadequate or nonexistent. In general, the developed nations of

the world are using regulations that were designed to control and monitor crops

created with traditional technologies like hybridization and cross-breeding

(Hileman 8). Pamela Weintraub, of the National Audubon Society, states that

many expected problems with biotechnology can be kept under control with proper

regulations, but the regulations (where there are any) governing biotechnology

today are “tangled and obscure” (164).

In the United States for example, biotechnology is regulated by three

different agencies: the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food

and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

These three agencies regulate product research and commercialization of

transgenic organisms depending upon their nature and intended use. The USDA

regulates transgenic plants grown on a large scale. If a product of transgenic

origin is to be used as a food, then it falls under FDA regulations. The EPA

has jurisdiction over all transgenic organisms that express or function as a

pesticide, and all genetically engineered microorganisms. Because Congress has

elected not to instate a law specifically regulating transgenic organisms, all

three of these agencies are using existing regulations designed for crops

created by traditional methods. According to Bette Hileman of Chemical and

Engineering News, “Under the existing legal framework, environmental releases of

most gene tically engineered animals are essentially unregulated” (9).

The undeveloped nations on the other hand have virtually no regulations

governing transgenic organisms. This means that research can and is being

conducted in these countries without regulation to protect the ecology. A

resolution passed by the European Parliament confirmed this when they stated,

“Deliberate releases of genetically modified organisms are being carried out in

many developing countries, which have no legislation or infrastructure to ensure

their safe use. . . “(Hileman 8). Further proof that this is taking place is

the speed with which transgenic crops are being commercially produced in these

nations. China, for example, has transgenic vegetables engineered for

resistance to viruses that have been on the market for about 18 months. Similar

transgenic crops in the United States are still in the testing and approval

stages at the USDA (Moffat186).

There are many biotech companies based in developed countries that have

branches or joint ventures around the world, especially in undeveloped countries.

One of the biggest, Pioneer Hi-Bred International based in Des Moines, Iowa,

has branches in over thirty countries (Hileman 16). Many of these companies

conduct enough research to adequately ensure that there are minimal

environmental and ecological risks, but Rebecca Goldburg, chairman of the

biotechnology program at the Environmental Defense Fund, “. . . warns that other

companies may follow through only if adequate regulations are in place” (qtd. in

Weintraub 163).

The potential risks of transgenic organisms to the environment is still

being determined. Some experts warn that there is a danger that biotechnology

can create mutant hybrids that can seriously endanger the ecosystem (Dalglish

41). As stated by Heike Dornenburg, quoted in The Reference Shelf: Genetics and

Society, “The number of genetically engineered products at the brink of

commercialization is growing. A number of environmental and ecological risks

remain unanswered” (152). One concern is that transgenic plants could either

become weeds that could raise the cost of weed control, or could transfer genes

into wild relatives that could then develop into weeds. Other risks include the

inadvertent spread of new virus strains which could gain resistance to virus

resistant plants, as well as possible detrimental effects on insects, birds, and

other animals that feed on transgenic plants (Dornenburg 152-53).

Biotechnology also has the potential to harm the economies of some

developing nations. According to Lawrence Busch, a Michigan State University

sociologist, if it becomes feasible “. . . to use plant cell culture techniques

to make high-value materials, such as vanilla and cocoa butter . . . ” (qtd in

Moffat 187) then these products can be made in the laboratory, instead of having

to extract them from tropical plants. The economies of the nations that have

traditionally produced these materials rely heavily on them for income. If

these materials can now be produced cheaper and easier in a laboratory, then the

developing country will lose one of its major exports (Moffat 187).

The last and possibly the most important argument for an international

biosafety protocol is in the name of ignorance and caution. Burke K. Zimmerman,

author of the book Biofuture: Confronting the Genetic Era, expounds on the

uncertainties of biotechnology:

Perhaps we all have a need for certainty in our lives, or the assurance

of knowing the limits to our lives or the fates that could befall us. Here,

however, we cannot allow ourselves that comfort. The knowledge we have gained

about living cells in recent years has been vast, but it has also showed us how

much more we have yet to learn. We will simply have to accept the fact that

there are uncertainties in our lives with which we will have to contend for some

time to come. One of those uncertainties is the absolute assurance that there

can never be a biological disaster (150)

Many researchers argue that there hasn’t been enough testing and

virtually no working experience in this field. Referring to the detrimental

effects modern agriculture has already had on the environment, Jack Brown, a

plant breeder geneticist at the University of Idaho, states, “Modern agriculture

has happened at a price. We should learn from our experiences what disasters

could befall us before we jump into large-scale production of gene-modified

plants” (qtd in Hileman 15). Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Washington-based

Foundation on Economic Trends, sums up the sentiment on the release of

transgenic organisms by stating, “Every introduction is a hit-or-miss ecological

roulette” (qtd. in Weintraub 160).

The United States, Germany, Japan, and Australia are the only countries

opposed to the biosafety protocol. They maintain that voluntary guidelines are

all that is needed to regulate international biotechnology. The opponents of a

biosafety protocol also argue that it will harm international trade and

corporate profits ( Hileman 8). A few researchers, typically in the private

sector, maintain that “Biotechnology is simply an extension of traditional

agricultural practices like hybridization and cross-breeding” (Mather 18).

According to John C. Sorenson, general manager of Asgrow, “. . . bioengineering

does not threaten plant or animal diversity, any more than conventional seed and

animal breeding programs do” (qtd. in Mather 162).

The need for a change in the world of agriculture is undeniable. The

world population is expected to approximately double in the next thirty years.

To feed this many new mouths with the same agricultural practices, the amount of

land available for agriculture must approximately double in size. The only

available land that is not being used for agriculture already is the endangered

and protected natural areas (Hileman 8). When the amount of land used for food

production increases, then so does the amount of chemicals used in today’s

agricultural processes increase. These chemicals are vital because they offset

or prevent the losses from weeds, pests, and diseases. Hopefully with new

technologies, biotechnology being one of them, plants will be created that can

grow and survive without the use of these environmentally harmful chemicals

(Hileman 14). While many people agree that biotechnology will be at least part

of the solution, they are also concerned about the safety of transgenic

organisms

that are released into the environment (Barker 126).

Works Cited

Barker, Penelope, ed. The Reference Shelf: Genetics and Society. New York: H.W.

Wilson Company, 1995.

Dalglish, Brenda. “Changing the face of the farm.” Macleans 06 March 1995:

41-42.

Dornenburg, Heike, and Christine Lang-Hinrichs. “Genetic Engineering in Food

Biotechnology.” The Reference Shelf: Genetics and Society. Ed. Penelope Barker.

New York: H.W. Wilson Company, 1995. 145-153.

Hileman, Bette. “Views differ sharply over benefits, risks of agricultural

biotechnology.” Chemical and Engineering News 73 (1995): 8-17.

Mather, Robin. A Garden of Unearthly Delights: Bioengineering and the Future of

Food. New York: Penguin Group, 1995.

Moffat, Ann S. “Developing Nations Adapt Biotech for own needs.” Science 08

July 1994: 186-187.

Weintraub, Pamela. “The Coming of the High-Tech Harvest.” The Reference Shelf:

Genetics and Society. Ed. Penelope Barker, New York: H.W. Wilson Company, 1995.

155-167

Zimmerman, Burke K. Biofuture: Confronting the Genetic Era. New York: Plenum

Press, 1984.

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