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Ethical Issues in Biotechnology

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Ethical Issues in Biotechnology - Lesson Summary

Charles Vacanti used a mouse to display the developing ear cartilage for transplantation into human patients. It raised debates and ethical issues regarding the pain and suffering of transgenic animals, manipulation of plant and animal genomes for genetic research. Transgenic biotechnology presents many opportunities, from increasing food production to providing treatment for diseases. But, genetic modification of organisms can lead to unpredictable results, once the transgenic organisms are introduced back in the ecosystem. Hence Genetic Engineering Approval Committee or GEAC was set up by the government of India to make decisions on the validity of GM research and safety of introducing GM organisms.
 
Grant of patents for products and technologies that use genetic materials and biological resources is another ethical issue.  Basmati is a rice variety known for its long grains with unique fragrance. But the Indian Basmati was crossed with semi dwarf rice varieties by another nation and claimed it to be a new rice variety. This company even got the patent, which allowed it to sell this ‘new’ variety of Basmati. Such blatant use of bio-resources by multinational companies without proper authorisation from the respective country and its people and without compensatory payment is known as biopiracy.

Developing nations such as India have a rich biodiversity and traditional knowledge regarding their bio-resources. The industrialised nations are financially sound, but they lack biodiversity as well as traditional knowledge of bio-resources. To avoid piracy and manipulation of our products, the government introduced laws to prevent unauthorised exploitation of the bio-resources and traditional knowledge.

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