Biotechnology and Agriculture
Biotechnology is the use of living systems and organisms to develop or make products, or any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms or derivatives to make or modify products or processes for specific use. New tools and products developed by biotechnologists are useful in research, agriculture, industry and healthcare.
There are four main societal concerns in the biotechnology field. Here's a closer look at these concerns in this ever-changing field, along with some of the main reasons why we use this controversial science.
Societal Concerns With Biotechnology
There are pros and cons to this ever-advancing field.
Environmental harm is perhaps the most widely cited by those opposed to GMOs in the food chain. It is very difficult to predict what will happen in an ecosystem where a new organism has been introduced — whether genetically modified or not.
Take weeds for example. If farmers introduce a herbicide-resistant marker into a plant, there is the possibility those traits may be transferred to a weed, making it resistant to herbicides as well.
On the plus side, new strains of plants are allowing farmers to increase their crop yields thereby feeding more people from existing land plots. More than 13.3 million farmers around the world use agricultural biotechnology to increase yields, prevent damage from insects and pests and reduce farming's impact on the environment. Growing biotech crops can also help lower the cost of production, cutting back on expenses like fuel, water and herbicides.
A Changing Field
Besides the age-old debate over whether cloning genes is contrary to accepted belief, there are other ethical questions over IP issues in seed propagation.
Balancing Pros and Cons
We use biotechnology to make medicines and vaccines to fight diseases. Biotechnology also helps feed the hungry, use less and cleaner energy, and have safer, cleaner and more efficient industrial manufacturing processes.
The field of biotechnology is fast-paced and rapidly changing often at a pace at which new technologies far exceed the speed of regulatory change and adaptation.
Many scientists and regulators are very aware of this disconnect. Thus, the rules for issues such as stem cell research, patenting genetic inventions and new drug development are constantly changing and come with its own set of complex problems.