Biotechnology as a practice, deals with the application of biological processes with the aim of achieving an industrial application of the capabilities of tissue cells or microorganisms. Biotechnology provides better food production techniques, which help developing countries tackle challenges that arise from the growing of food crops due to limited availability of resources. Stem cell research is used to treat a variety of different diseases such as diabetes, leukaemia, cerebral palsy, and sickle cell disease. Biotechnology will be of substantial benefit in regards to family planning and population control. Arguments against biotechnology for sex selection, stem cell research and cloning are founded on the basis that the application of these tools is similar to playing the role of god and that involves interfering with the natural process of reproduction. However, the science of biotechnology is a tool of immense potential with several societal, financial, and ecological benefits.
The biotechnological industry is a tool of immense potential with various environmental, social, and commercial benefits. Over the past forty years or so, countries across the world have dedicated a lot of attention to biotechnology. Some researchers have been bold enough to deem Biotechnology as the biggest catalyser for the next revolution because of its efficiency in advancing the study of biochemistry, microbiology, and microbe genetics. According to Carlson (2016), the biotechnological industry was estimated to have a global income exceeding $70 billion by the turn of the new millennium.
The ethics of using reproduction technology with the aim of choosing the gender of a child has often been met with heated debate. People arguing against biotechnology for sex selection have done so on the basis that sex selection is similar to playing the role of god and that involves interfering with the natural process of reproduction. Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) for sex selection sees an embryo being implanted into a woman’s uterus after its sex has been determined. This technology will prove beneficial to family balancing and population control. It will most likely have a gendered impact on society as most societies tend to favour having male children and will directly affect the sex ratios. According to Barry (2012), a bias in favour of males has seen China with a surplus of 32 million boys more than girls with female foetuses being aborted. This consequently brings about more ethical concerns in regards to the termination of early life.
Stem cell research has the ability to give humanity a cutting edge in treatment and cures for a variety of diseases. With the required investment into stem cell medical research, there will be efficient treatment of ailments such as heart disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s will be managed. This is because embryonic and adult stem cells have the ability to replace dead cells, therefore, acting as an internal repair system creating the foundation of regenerative medicine (Barry 2012). Adult stem cells are currently being used to treat over 70 different ailments such as heart tissue regeneration, diabetes, leukaemia, genetic diseases, cerebral palsy, sickle cell disease, and a variety of organ replacements.
The societal debate on stem cell research focuses on the embryonic stem cell. Blastocysts created through in vitro fertilization (IVF) and when they are 4 or 5 days old, the embryonic stem cells are extracted leaving the embryo completely destroyed. The ethical debacle that springs up as a result looks into whether it is allowable to create embryos for the sole purpose of research with religious groups referring to the practice as murder. What is the greater good? Is killing an embryo worth saving lives that already exist? Does life begin at conception or birth?
Almost every United States president in the recent past has faced these difficult questions when designing laws for stem cell research. Most recently, President Obama lifted financial sanctions that his predecessor, President Bush, had imposed on the National Institutes of Health according to Khokhar (2012). He might have allowed the dedication of federal funding to embryonic stem cell research but he still certain regulations such as mandatory briefing of donors on what would be done to the cells, and the signing of consent forms.
The biotechnology of embryonic stem cell research coupled with the cloning of human beings will without a doubt, change peoples’ lives in regards to how humans go about reproduction (Barry 2012). The possibility of cloning human beings poses a challenge on human life, individual identity, family, and biotechnology. Making a set of copies of an organism to form identical twins is a prospect that has been met with support as well as ridicule. Due to the lack of international guidelines, the possibility of human cloning sets up various questions such as how far will humanity go in using technology to duplicate human life? The risk of deformities or human abnormalities is very high on the clone. It is argued that the science of cloning would be used to social injustices based on class, race, or gender.
The advantages that biotechnology offers has an impact on the agricultural industry as well. By identifying a specific gene in a plant that happens to be disease or insect resistant, modification of the gene will allow the plant to become no longer susceptible to the disease or the pest (Barrows, Sexton, & Zilberman, 2014). This allows for better food production which is usually a challenge in developing countries due to limited availability of resources. Farmers also face the challenge of producing more food crops on smaller sizes of land and biotechnology is aiding them through genetic engineering that helps plants grow under harsh conditions such as deficient soils.
Biotechnology is an incentive for many areas of scientific research. It offers various possibilities to how humans manage genetic resources for reproduction and agriculture. Biotechnology gives a proper insight into the scientific knowledge of disease treatment of crops and animals. Application of biotechnological tools provides researchers with better understanding of tools that can make human life better on the planet. The fast development of biotechnology has contributed to the growth of new products that are hugely beneficial to the daily needs of man especially with the high increase in population.