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The control of information in Science - A One World Essay on Biotechnology.

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The control of information in Science A One World Essay on Biotechnology by: Nikita Malik 10R As President Roosevelt once said, "There is nothing to fear but fear itself." In today's society, however, not only do we have a lot to fear about, but we have plenty of reason to be fearful itself. What is unsettling is that the discovery and practice of biological weapons can destroy the lives of millions of people in a matter of mere seconds, and further disturbing is the fact that the key decisions made about the use of this technology is placed in the hands of someone else. That, to me, is something to be scared about. But science and its discoveries, unfortunately, play a major part in the making of our present and future anxieties. "Molecular bio-technology will transform agriculture, energy production, health care, and microelectronics; however, it will also pose significant military and strategic challenges." (Venter, www.pbs.org) One of the main problems we are facing today is the utilization of biological weapons. A boundless debate goes on about whether or not the use of this technology should be restricted. By controlling bio-technology, less developed countries will miss out on several opportunities, for this equipment can eradicate poverty, lack of crops, serve as assistance after natural disasters (or for that matter, after social or economic disasters), and remove most human suffering in ELDCs by providing genetically and biologically modified (GBM) food to the poor. (No author, http://clinton1.nara.gov) However, if this technology is free for all, we will live amongst that constant threat that this recombinant DNA technology will be turned into weapons of mass destruction. (Venter, www.pbs.org) Even in this day and age, the question we should be asking ourselves is whether society is responsible enough to handle such technology. We are not even civilized enough to sort out global problems in a peaceful manner, in fact, it has been quite evident in the past 2 years that conflicts between countries can go completely out of hand and produce quite horrific results (one of the perfect scenarios of this situation would be the War in Iraq). ...read more.


Of course, access to biotechnology should not be free, because then developing countries and small terrorist groups would all have CBWs. However, should this extend to food that has been modified through biotechnology (BF)? Should developing countries, which need this food the most, have to continue to pay hefty prices for this food, because they cannot recreate a cheaper version of it in their own country - due to patents? It is true the development of this food would require a lot of money and technology, which these developing countries do not have. The case being argued, however, is should the information in order to make this food be kept from ELDCs? On around March 1997 the European Union developed patents on biotechnology, which are patentable if "they concern a product consisting of or containing biological material or process" for producing such material even if the material previously existed in nature. (Perry, www.ladas.com) Further, "inventions which concern plants or animals shall be patentable if the technical feasibility of the invention is not confined to a particular plant or animal variety." (Perry, www.ladas.com). Therefore, biotechnology is already being controlled; nevertheless, another problem is arising. Although patents are being put on new biotechnology plants (for example, the case of the brazzein which biotechnology companies wanted to develop into a gene that could be introduced into several fruit and vegetable products - making them taste sweet but contain less calories) the farmers that produce the gene in its original form - the brazzein is a berry- are caught in a losing scenario. (Franck Seuret, www.gene.ch) They know all about the plant, and have used it before; further, their farming practices have helped to ensure its survival. Nevertheless, the firms and universities wanting to develop the plant have taken out patents on the brazzein without the consent of the parties concerned, and do not offer any financial consideration in return for using the plant. ...read more.


Take the case of North Korea and the United States. When the United States attacked Iraq, they knew that Iraq had no biological weapons because they had done several checks on the matter, and one of their claims to start war in the first place was because Iraq had CBWs. Nevertheless, within the war itself, the United States naturally had more power because they themselves had a huge supply of CBWs. When North Korea announced that they had stepped out of the Non Proliferation Treaty, they were openly announcing that they had CBWs. However, America did not attack them. And this was because America knew that North Korea would be able to defend themselves. "Although Iraq's biological weapons program is under the microscope of those seeking to halt BW proliferation, the Wall Street Journal wrote that this "diverts Western attention away from the broader problems of chemical and biological weapons..." Now, the above statements might be very controversial. Further, they may or may not even be accurate, according to the opinions of some people, because they happen to be based on my own individual theory. Nevertheless, the point remains that the developing countries should have a right to defend themselves if a war situation arises. To conclude, I would like to ask that in the case of biotechnology, or in the case of scientific technology itself, should developing countries always be the ones to rely on the more powerful countries? In the case that patents continue to be placed on biotechnology, developed countries will always have more power than ELDCs. How long will the developed countries keep lending ELDCs a hand? How often will this have to be done? Time alone can tell. But what should ELDCs do until such a time comes? Until then, the best place for the ELDCs to find a helping hand will have to be, unfortunately, at the end of their own arm. ...read more.

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