The Case For/Against Biotechnology/Bioengineering
Debate Rounds (5)
I understand that the field carries with it potential risk, but there is the potential for huge reward.
For example, medicine: biotechnology has the potential to cure/alleviate diseases like Hemophilia, Parkinson's, and Huntington's.
Also, on the environmental front, the chytrid fungus is decimating the world's amphibian population. Scientists predict that the fungus, combined with deforestation, will cause a mass extinction in the frog population. But, biotechnology has the possibility to halt this extinction.
Agricultural output has decreased over the years, proportionate to the amount of land used for farming. This needs to change, and biotechnology has shown that it can alleviate the problem by making crops more disease and drought resistant: two major problems. The crops can also be made more nutritious so that we have to plant less.
I can understand why this can be scary. Big corporations have monopolized this new technology: patenting genes, hushing up failures and mistakes, etc. have all led to a bastardization of the true aim of this new field of research: helping other people and the world to be a better place for everything and everyone on it. The challenges are many, but the rewards are even greater.
The problems of the world aside, we need to acknowledge a modern technological track record, that while modern technology has alleviated many problems, it has also unlocked more destructive capabillity than ever imagined. Even the benign aspects of our global economy and our modern society has put in place unsustainable systems (see factory farming and oil based economy) this has allowed human beings to evolve far beyond enviromental carrying capacity. The only pitfall is we have built our society ontop of unsustainable systems and every technological advance brings more and more destructive weapons. This ergo means we either have to effictively let modern society fall or redesign society or move up another tier in destructive power.
"A further reason why industrial society cannot be reformed in favor of freedom is that modern technology is a unified system in which all parts are dependent on one another. You can't get rid of the "bad" parts of technology and retain only the "good" parts. Take modern medicine, for example. Progress in medical science depends on progress in chemistry, physics, biology, computer science and other fields. Advanced medical treatments require expensive, high-tech equipment that can be made available only by a technologically progressive, economically rich society. Clearly you can't have much progress in medicine without the whole technological system and everything that goes with it."- Theodore Kaczynski
Basically what Teddy boy is saying is that it impossible to disassociate technology from its bad parts and the millitary-industrial complex.
If we are going to make strides in genetics where it is possible to realize this plentiful food and disease free utopia, then the machinery will have to be abundant and cheap, making gene manipulation available to any government or terrorist group that sees fit to it. Gene technology will most likely be more abundant,easier to use, and with more professionals capable of using it, than nuclear technology, making it even more dangerous.
It's bad enough if a terrorist group really wanted to reanimate smallpox they could easily find traces of it in say the corpse of somone who died from it (and there are plent of those). Imagine them with the genetic abillity to reengineer it to perfect contamination and lethality.We could easily expect casualties of over 200 million deaths(if not possibly a billion) against awidely unvaccinated society.
one major reason for the agricultural decrease is climate change andenviromental destruction brought about by modern society (http://en.wikipedia.org...) Also, one of our leanest and most plentiful forms of meat fish are killed off because of fertillizers and pesticides used to prop factory farming up (http://en.wikipedia.org...(ecology)#Causes_of_dead_zones)
What sort of unintentional consequenses could biotech have on our enviroment, especially if unregulated and mostly in the hands of corporations who care little to nothing about the earth.
I await your response.
"The mind likes a strange idea as little as the body likes a strange protein and resists it with similar energy. It would not perhaps be too fanciful to say that a new idea is the most quickly acting antigen known to science. If we watch ourselves honestly we shall often find that we have begun to argue against a new idea even before it has been completely stated."
--Wilfred Batten Lewis Trotter (1872-1939) English surgeon.
Your argument focuses on historical evidence which shows us that technology can be extremely destructive to the environment and humanity, particularly if used in the form of weaponry.
I agree. Technology certainly has caused much problems in the world, but one would be deceitful if they claimed that it also did not alleviate many of the ills of the world. Without technology we would still have a world decimated by diseases such as small pox, malaria, TB, and yellow fever. Thanks to new fields of research, like biotechnology, we have managed to combat disease and in some cases, largely eradicate it.
I will use a metaphor to conclude this point. Just because a new technology has the possibility to be used in a way that is harmful does not mean that the technology itself is harmful. It depends on the user's intentions, which cannot be controlled. For example, a hammer is a tool which can be used to kill and destroy, yet it is a tool which can also be used to build and create. It is not the hammer's fault that a person decided to use it to commit murder, it is just a tool. Does that mean that we should stop producing hammers? No.
The environment is currently under siege, mainly because of deforestation for farmland and urban sprawl. Biotechnology can be used to combat the pressures we have placed on the environment.
Erosion of topsoil can be cut by more than 70 per cent when farmers use no-till techniques to remove weeds and crop residues before planting. Biotechnology can help control weeds to reduce the need for tilling.
Many of today's fungicides, herbicides, insecticides and other pesticides are better, safer and more environmentally sensitive than older versions. Even so, they sometimes enter the air, soil and groundwater when they blow or wash off plants. Biotechnology can achieve many of the goals for which pesticides were designed, often more efficiently without the runoff of chemicals into the surrounding environment.
One of the main reasons for deforestation is the fact that we produce a smaller amount of food proportionate to the land used for farming. So, to keep people fed, farmers need to spread out over larger and larger tracts of land that contain better soil and fewer natural obstacles to crop growth (drought, flooding, etc). Biotechnology has shown that it can make crops more efficient growers, more nutritious, and easier to grow in nutrient deficient soil. Using biotechnology, growers will only need to plant one or perhaps two acres - instead of five acres or more - to ensure one acre's worth of harvest. This obviously means far fewer agricultural inputs such as fuel, labour, water and fertiliser.
I think that we need to keep a very close eye on this new field, but we do not have any excuse not to research it further. With regulations and open scientific inquiry, this technology has show that it can, and has continued potential to prevent problems and solve the ones with which we currently live.
I would say that hammers and biotech are on a totally different scales. One is a simple tool, while capable of murder has a limited scale of destruction. While biotech while having great promise, could easily be programmed to destroy the people,plants,or animals civillization depends on.
If you want to make a truly great world based on biotech you need to offer it at a cheap cost, almost essentially free. Both to combat the scale of the worlds problems and to prevent rationing this lifesaving technology for profit. Basically you want to to take the examples of the medical and oil industry and do the exact opposite.
Only thing is cheap biotech would be easy to get your hands on.Making it easy for any terrorist or malacious goverment to get their hands on.
Rationing in the care of corporations would be purely profit based.Biotech would stay expensive while people died and the enviroment suffered, until prices eventually went down, where they would remain affordable but very steep. Free market rationing, would lead to no better a result in defending ourselves against bioterror, because everything goes to the highest bidder and despite what conspiracy theorists think most corporate HQ'S arent fort knox. The free market would market anykind of bioweapon they could get their hands on. They would probably market biotech without regard for the enviroment.Say lake X has serious algea and its really pissing the boatowners on lake X, corporation x decides to unleash a certain algea killing bacteria this bacteria then kills all the algea which cause all the fish to die in lake X disrupting the whole ecosystem. Corporation X got their money, the boatowners dont have pesky algea to deal with anymore although its kind of difficult to fish without fish in the lake.
The scenario described above would be the worst way and most likely way, biotech would be distributed.
There is the likelihood of government run biotech which would be preferable to the free biotech and free market scenarios described but would suffer from a number of pitfalls: It would be slower research and development, the govenment would have the perfect bio-weapons already, Tons of paperwork, sometimes oversecurity and beuracracy, people would be mad they are paying for bio-tech they don't morally support. There would be tremendous pressure to privatize bio-tech and tremendous outrage if it was nationalized. What would the reagan revolutionaries think?Seemingly trivial scientific issues would become national debate. The green peaceand peta crew would come crawling out of the woodwork. The only person who might have the political capital to keep biotech national, might be Obama,maybe I still think that the tremendous financial gain of this industry would be to much to keep this a national industry.
Theres the issue of modifying human beings; which is already ongoing and huge bussiness( which i have no moral objections)but as soon asthis became reality, the threat from teerorist groups would range all the way across the spectrum from homegrown right wing terror groups to al-quedia,to even japanese anarchist groups. If you think they are going to sit around let you play god or even let progress go further you're wrong. What better weapons to attack society with than the technology you dispise.
Then there is the question of whether once biotech is implemented we will create stable societal models or just even more gargantuan unsustainable ones.The choice is ours.
I think only an idiot would stop work on this technology, but definately wewould have to sleep with oneeye open.
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