controversies & ethics

FG1 at stud.hibo.no FG1 at stud.hibo.no
Thu Feb 16 05:34:11 EST 1995

In article <Pine.SOL.3.91.950209231506.19239H-100000 at corona> Patrick O'Neil <patrick at corona> writes:
>From: Patrick O'Neil <patrick at corona>
>Subject: Re: controversies & ethics
>Date: Thu, 9 Feb 1995 23:28:35 -0700

>On Mon, 30 Jan 1995, Phandaal wrote:
>> I've been asked to give a lecture to upper-division college students on
>> the controversies and ethical considerations in producing transgenic
>> organisms, especially transgenic plants.  It's been a while since I gave
>> this lecture, and so I was wondering if anybody had any good examples of
>> controversies or ethical considerations that I could incorporate into the 
>> talk.

> I spent a year working in a plant molec bio lab that was being partially 
>funded by a private company to produce a more fungal resistent 
>sugarbeet.  Technically, it would be a transgenic in that a gene, VERY 
>closely related to an already present gene, from Arabidopsis was/is to be 
>introduced into the sugarbeet and overexpressed, thus bolstering the 
>sugarbeet's fungal resistence.  I enjoyed the work very much and saw 
>absolutely nothing wrong with it.  It was making use of an already 
>existent defensive gene that resides in many plants and simply increasing 
>its output by using an easy to maniplate gene from a common lab plant.  
>This sugarbeet will allow, hopefully, less use of chemical fungicides.  
>  You could argue that it will simply apply selective pressure for fungi 
>to evolve resistence...but then, so does the use of fungicides or natural 
>defenses.  A more resistent fungi will, conversely, select for more 
>fungal-resistent plants.  This can be applied to your first point below too.

>> Two I can think of off-hand are:
>> 1) introducing insecticidal proteins (such as the Bacillus thuringiensis
>> protein) into plants may create resistant insect populations (under the
>> force of heavy selection pressure), which could then overrun the resistant
>> plants and make worthless the efforts by conventional growers who *use* Bt
>> protein as a topical pesticidal spray. 

>The use of the spray itself puts selective pressure on insects to develop 
>resistence.  The point is moot.

>> 2) altering fatty acid metabolism in oil-crops (like canola) so that they 
>> produce oils found chiefly in palm and coconut could severely damage the 
>> palm oil and coconut oil industries in Third World countries... thus 
>> severely depressing the economies of these already struggling countries.

>If business was nice, then companies would never be put out of business.  
>It may be tough but I could not support artificially supporting a 
>weakly-based economy by ignoring a possible economic boon here.  Any 
>economy that ties itself to one commodity is *automatically* doomed to bite 
>it pretty hard.  Look at Louisiana and the effects of it having placed 
>all its economic eggs in the oil business basket -- the state is only now 
>beginning to recover from over a decade of depressed economy and hard times.


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