controversies & ethics

S. LaBonne labonnes at csc.albany.edu
Mon Jan 30 20:21:34 EST 1995

In article <Pine.SOL.3.91.950130115343.5258D-100000 at rocky>,
Phandaal  <ez006804 at peseta.ucdavis.edu> 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 
>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. 
>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.

My problem with these examples is that I see nothing about them that
is unique to transgenic technology.  Similar sorts of problems are
raised all the time by "conventional" technologies, including very
ancient ones like selective breeding.  An analogue to 1 is simply
overuse of pesticides (or antibiotics for that matter), which can
render them worthless in the way you describe.  And 2 in no way
raises ethical issues different from, say, starting a palm oil
industry in Key West, possibly after selective breeding of oil
palms to produce strains that give high yields there.

Indeed, I doubt that there _are_ any ethical issues which depend
_specifically_ on agricultural use of biotechnology as opposed
to agricultural technologies in general.  

Steve LaBonne *********************** (labonnes at csc.albany.edu)
"It can never be satisfied, the mind, never." - Wallace Stevens

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