Skip navigation

2.11. Bioethics

Bioethics

Throughout history, humanity has used traditional biotechnology to make bread, wine, beer, cheese, etc., to select the varieties of plants or animal races that most interested them, etc. But advances in molecular genetics have made modern biotechnology have other applications in medicine, the environment, agriculture, livestock, etc. Genetic engineering makes it possible to obtain better medicines and the cure of genetic diseases, in addition to producing transgenic organisms.

Despite having many benefits, biotechnology also has some risks:

Risks from a health point of view

New medicines can have unwanted side effects.

The creation of transgenic organisms can cause environmental changes that generate diseases unknown until now.

It is possible that genetically modified microorganisms can transfer genes or toxins to other species and that they or eventually humans are affected.

Eating some vegetables that contain Arctic fish genes to improve their resistance to cold can also increase the frequency of allergies caused by transgenic foods, such as those produced in people allergic to fish.

Risks from an ethical point of view

Knowing our genome and being able to manipulate human DNA allows us to use gene therapy to cure diseases. But abusing gene therapy to achieve certain traits can lead to a loss of genetic diversity that could be detrimental to future environmental changes.

Risks from a legal point of view

Although you cannot patent human genes, private companies investigating these issues want to recoup the money invested and earn money from patents on their discoveries. Patenting plants, animals, or human genome sequences has many global implications.

Risks from an environmental point of view

The introduction of transgenic organisms can cause alterations in the ecosystem that lead to the disappearance of species. They can cause untreatable pests.

It is possible that transgenic plants make indigenous plants disappear, adapted to the ecosystem after many years of evolution.

In addition, hybrids can also be produced between genetically modified and unmodified plants, which can alter the ecosystem.

Risks from a social point of view

Biotechnological advances in agriculture, livestock and industry can further increase the differences between rich and poor countries.

Knowing the human genome allows us to know the predisposition of a person to suffer from a disease. If this information is misused, it can help a company not to hire a person because of their risk of suffering from a disease or that it is also rejected by the insurance companies.