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Aug 22, 2012

Biotechnology and Politics


Among the many snags in a political strategy is that it is not always well-equipped to preserve changes in technology. Whenever the Internet come into our world, lawmakers were aghast at how to regulate it, or if it is to remain regulated by any means. Computers gave rise to software - a medium like books and music in some ways, but different in others. They're still grappling over how to manage laws referring to software, and also to adjust patent and copyright law to raised fit this unforeseen media entity.

But if they're having a tough time keeping up with electronic technology, they're in for a real poser with biological technology. It really is obvious from research that within our century, biotechnology will give rise to a multitude of new issues to deal with that many of us never saw before. As long as they come from our system or elsewhere, they're definitely upon the way.

Cloning is definitely issue that many of us have no idea how we'll deal with. A poll of USA citizens has shown than a sizable percentage believed that a cloned human would not have a soul. However, there's a good side to this: they might not object to cloned embryonic stem cells, at that rate, since to them clones have no life to take.

Then there's the matter of artificial DNA. One pictures the joy of the movie "Blade Runner" with colorful replicated life forms living amongst us. But this isn't too far off. As a matter of fact, in a recent science article within the Washington Post, experts have stated that "the technology is quickly becoming so simple, experts say, that it will never be quite a bit before 'bio hackers' doing work in garages will certainly be downloading genetic programs and making them into novel life forms.". When these feats are possible, government controls will have to rush to update themselves to regulate what should and can't be done in this area.

Tampering with existing DNA in already-living people is becoming commonplace. "Gene therapy" is where genes are inside a patient's cells and tissues to care for a disease, often a hereditary one. The result usually is to replace a mutant gene causing the disease with a healthy one. While the technology is still in its infancy, it really has been applied in some cases with many success. This raises some interesting questions regarding the medical malpractice lawyers: Will we at some point see a baby suing her parents for allowing her to be born with Down's syndrome? Once we use artificial genes to replace natural genes, have we created a chimera?

At the end of these developments lies the ultimate science fiction scenario: genetic engineering. Literally playing God. Biological weapons have been widely debated in politics already, and a biological weapon is nothing more or less when compared to a super-germ created specifically to contaminate the enemy. So far, these germs have only been bred, not created from scratch. But beyond mere germs, what else could somebody do with a bio-engineering lab, a large amount of scientists, some huge cash, and not much ethics? Perhaps breed a race of super-soldiers to conquer the world with?

Another possibility is the matter of ownership of intellectual property. Many biology labs have rushed to patent life forms that they might create sooner or later. This makes sense when you consider the case of genetically altered food crops - a case in point is a new strain of corn that has been designed to be insect-resistant, already growing and yielding crops in Kenya.

Other cases are manufacturing human insulin through a genetically modified bacteria and erythropoietin constructed from genetically altered mice. All of this is already being done, but laboratories want to maintain some property rights before they just release their newly-altered life forms straight into the wild. As a matter of fact, much of the advanced hair therapies today are now being deployed using biological engineering in certain degree. Perhaps one of the earliest approved uses was the FDA-approved genetically-engineered hepatitis B vaccine, introduced in 1986.

The purpose of this article is certainly not to scare anyone or promote fear-mongering. Biotechnology is already around in the country, and it is clearly saving lives. However it cannot help but march forward, and sometime whenever the dust has settled, perhaps cloned or genetically engineered humans will be voting on what we can offer them, instead of the other way around.

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