The problems of genetic engineering

Hindmarsh, Richard Alan (2000) The problems of genetic engineering. Peace Review, 12 4: 541-547. doi:10.1080/10402650020014627

Author Hindmarsh, Richard Alan
Title The problems of genetic engineering
Journal name Peace Review   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1040-2659
Publication date 2000-12
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1080/10402650020014627
Volume 12
Issue 4
Start page 541
End page 547
Total pages 7
Editor R. Elias
Place of publication Abingdon, U.K.
Publisher Carfax, Taylor & Francis
Collection year 2001
Language eng
Subject C3
370602 Sociology and Social Studies of Science and Technology
420399 Cultural Studies not elsewhere classified
769999 Other Environmental aspects
Formatted abstract
When Aldous Huxley sketched the outlines of an anti-utopian society in his 1946 classic Brave New World, some did not take his fears seriously. But his dystopian society is closer to reality today than many could imagine. Bio-utopians have now launched a techno-scientific revolution that could have immense implications for the future. This third so-called “revolution” (after the industrial and informatics revolutions) is being propelled by ambitious Genome Projects that entail the mapping of the genetic structures of humans, as well as those of commercially important plants, animals and microscopic organisms. Once these worldwide projects are concluded, then we may enter the Age of Biology proper. Nothing will be impossible, trumpet the true believers in a cornucopian world of plenty. Civilization, finally, will be able to control its biological destiny. Disease and hunger will be overcome, the green restoration of the Earth will occur and, of course, humans will live longer. Economic growth will also benefit with an estimated 40% of the global economy, by the year 2025, reliant on biotechnology. Politicians, industrialists and university administrators scent gold. Governments around the world are investing handsomely in the dream of becoming biotech capitals. The bandwagon is gathering speed.

But critics of this utopian vision warn that the biotech fraternity is overlooking dire problems and that the consequences of this revolution are imponderable. While the proponents’ promises are naturally alluring, a darker scenario also exists. It is of a bio-industrialized world dominated by a technical life-sciences elite (or bio-elite) whose corporate linkages ensure profit making via patents on life and biodiversity—the new “gene-gold,” and whose research concentrates on the symptoms of problems, not their causes. New food and health-care production systems based on a quick-fix approach will address the superficial “needs” of a consumer material society but fail generally to alleviate the growing social and ecological crisis that society currently faces. Indeed, the ecological crisis may worsen through the widespread release of transgenic organisms into the environment, creating a new form of pollution—genetic pollution. This may be exacerbated by genetically manufactured foods that create new health problems, horrifying new weapons of biological warfare, and potentially dangerous rDNA vaccines tested in under-regulated countries.
© 2000 Taylor & Francis Ltd
Q-Index Code C1

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collection: Centre for Social Research in Communication - Publications
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Created: Tue, 10 Jun 2008, 13:23:56 EST