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Biotechnology and Bio safety Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by ., Kenya Apr 12, 2007
Technology   Opinions


Biotechnology and Bio safety As we move into the 21st century it has become clear that biotechnology is certain to play a key role in economic and social development throughout the world. Its impact on agriculture, health and environment has already been noted widely in the relevant literature but this is nothing compared to the widely held expectations that this generic technology will revolutionize these and other sectors in the coming decades.

However biotechnology is also a two-edge sword in that its capacity to modify and alter the course of nature raises many questions of ethics and risk. Unless these are resolved its economic potential is certain to be compromised.

And for developing countries in particular, therefore, such issues of risk perception and management have great significance. In agriculture for example, biotechnology promises the capacity to improve radically rates of growth of food production and of other primary commodities such as cash crops for export.

It can also help reduce environmental damage through curtailing the use of pesticides and herbicides, and help deal with problems of growth stress such as those of drought and salinity. On a more industrial scale, as noted above, tissue culture is now being used to promote the production export led high value horticulture crops such as cut flowers. But as the richer countries have shown there are wider industrial applications in areas like food sectors and pharmaceuticals.

On the other hand biotechnology has got its shortcomings. In agriculture for instance, there are concerns that introducing genetically modified crop varieties will negatively impact on the environment. One of the potential problems is that novel genes might be unintentionally transferred by pollination to other plants, including weeds and also wild relatives of the crop species. There are fears that such transfers could lead to the developments of resistant ‘super weeds’, loss of biodiversity within crop species, and possibly even the destabilization of entire ecosystems.

Concerns have also been expressed about the risks to human health of food products derived from genetically modified crops. This is particularly the case where novel genes have been transferred to crops from organisms that are not normally used in food or animal feed products.

Those opposed to genetic engineering have suggested that this might lead to the introduction of previously unknown allergens into the food chain. There are also concerns about international markets calling in question environmental and social methods of production.



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