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Genetic Engineering yey or ney?

  1. Dec 3, 2008 #1
    Genetic Engineering yey or ney??

    Hey, just wondering what peoples views are on

    q. Is genetic engineering of animals/humans really necessary? :smile:
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 3, 2008 #2
    Re: Genetic Engineering yey or ney??

    Necessary, no. Nothing is necessary. Could it greatly improve the quality of life on this planet and do I think it should be done, yes.
  4. Dec 3, 2008 #3


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    Re: Genetic Engineering yey or ney??

    In some sense, genetic engineering has been crucial to the development of modern human civilizations. One can argue that selective breeding, a technique practiced by humans since the dawn of agriculture, is a form of genetic engineering. Such selective breeding has been crucial for generating domesticated crops that generate high yields of food and domesticated animals to power our ancient societies, both of which were likely required to sustain large agrarian societies.
  5. Dec 3, 2008 #4
    Re: Genetic Engineering yey or ney??

    And not only has there been "genetic engineering" via husbandry for thousands of years as Ygggdrasil mentions, for something like eighty years scientists have induced mutation in crops to try to create breeds with beneficial characteristics. Many of those have been in the food supply all over the world for decades, and of course crops that have been genetically engineered with modern techniques are also irrevocably in the food supply at this point, at least in the U.S.

    I think that the benefits outweigh any risks I'm aware of. But I do kind of look askance at things like introducing genes from insects into plants. In theory it shouldn't do anything more than possibly trigger some rare allergies but it's so science-fictioney mad scientist that it does seem rather like there might be some potential unforseen consequences, though I can't imagine anything serious.

    There are a couple of related issues I have positions on:
    1. I do think that there ought to be labeling requirements that identify genetically engineered food on the market, just so that you can know when you're buying something like the wheat-with-insect-genes stuff.
    2. I think that companies being allowed to acquire patents on living organisms is total crap. There ought to be some intellectual-property-type measures to allow companies to recoup their research investments, but giving someone a patent on a living organism, especially when all they've usually done is kept 99.99% of the original genome and pasted in some sequences that they didn't create themselves, they borrowed from elsewhere in nature, is ridiculous in my opinion.
  6. Dec 5, 2008 #5
    Re: Genetic Engineering yey or ney??

    And yet their product is essentially this organism. The current patent system is what makes biotech possible. The rewards for a single FDA-approved food or drug are so immense that it makes all the research before getting to that point worth the cost.

    I'm curious what you think about synthetic biology. For example, it's already possible to mix and match "biological parts" and build your own brand new species of bacteria. If you were able to design an organism from scratch, do you think that would be patentable? Where would you draw the line between unpatentable minor modifications of existing organisms and major modifications (presumably) deserving a patent?
  7. Dec 5, 2008 #6
    Re: Genetic Engineering yey or ney??

    You imply here that a successful biotech industry is only achievable by granting patents on living organisms. I just don't regard that as being true, at all. Certainly that is the prevailing IP paradigm but it simply isn't fair and equitable if the company is not responsible for 99.99% of what they're trying to make money off of.

    If you are saying that scientific research needs to be incentivized it's a fallacy to suggest that the only possible way to do that is by granting corporate entities government-enforced monopolistic control over something when the simple truth is they aren't responsible for the vast majority of the art they're being granted control of. ("Art" being the term from intellectual property law.)

    Monsanto should not be able to sue farmers because pollen from genetically-engineered corn in a field adjacent to their farms blew onto their land.

    There's also a term, I can't remember what it is now, for a phenomenon that has been going on recently: biotech companies track down some rare but valuable species of crop, say potatoes that are grown only in some remote part of the Andes, for example, and acquire a patent on that organism. The company is then able to profit off of licensing a crop they are in no way responsible for creating and on top of that none of the profits go to the descendants of the people who either did actually breed the species or were the generational custodians preserving it.

    I just think that the entire concept of patents is wrong as an incentivization method for this. I definitely think that if someone synthesized a species of bacteria from scratch and it ended up getting free into the wild they should not be granted any sort of rights or control or ability to sue people or places where the bacteria ends up growing.

    The current intellectual property law and practice in the U.S. and in the rest of the world where those laws have been "exported" to (check out the radical changes in IP law in Scandanavian countries in only the last decade, for example) are pretty much focused around giving corporate entities the ability to leverage profits and compensation out of the hands of the artists and inventors and researchers who actually create the IP, IMO. I think that putting the ability to patent living organisms into the hands of those sort of people was a bad, bad thing for both science and the public trust.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2008
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