Christian Biotechnology: Not a Contradiction Term Paper

Pages: 75 (27724 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 29  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Agriculture

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So in this area, it is relatively simple to analyze the use and importance of this field of research. Transgenic crops have proven to be vital food source for both economic and humanitarian purposes, while transgenic animals are quickly proving to be just what the meat, milk, and egg industry need to increase profits and production. Christians everywhere should be in support of biotechnology and genetic modification in food production, as this has the potential to erase world hunger and improve corporate profits all at once.

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Genetically modified (GM) crops are safe and proven in the field. Scientists are not just tinkering with DNA for fun -- GM crops are being created that are far superior to traditional hybrid strains in hardiness and resistance to pests and poisons and weather, while still carrying the full array of nutrients and sometimes even a little more. One common genetic modification used widely in America is to make crops that are resistant to specific pests, little cotton bolls. This can reduce the amount of pesticides needed to grow crops, which in turn reduces the poison going into the consumer and the environment, while making it possible to grow more crops on the same amount of land. Another common modification is making crops that are resistant to specific herbicides -- this makes it so farmers can practice no-till methods of growing plants. In traditional farming, it is necessary to deep plow the ground every year to kill weeds, but this unfortunately leads to soil erosion and loss of land. If plants can be resistant to weeds (or more precisely to the herbicides used to kill weeds) then this plowing can be foregone and save the farmer lots of money while protecting his soil. Genetic modification might also make a plant more resistant to drought or severe weather.

Term Paper on Christian Biotechnology: Not a Contradiction Assignment

GM plants are so superior to other crops that their use has skyrocketed in all crops where they have been successfully introduced. According to generally known statistics, such as those released in succinct form by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology (2003), the majority of corn, soy, and cotton grown in the United States was genetically modified stock. Of soy crops, 81% in the U.S. are genetically altered. Genetically modified corn is on the increase, and in 2003 a full 40% of American grown corn was genetically altered. Genetically modified cotton represented 73% of the cotton crop. Significant percentages of canola (54%) and squash and papayas (54%) were also genetically modified.

Of course, the "every body is doing it" is hardly a perfect moral justification for Christians. Just because the majority of U.S. farmers recognize the importance and economic validity of GM crops doesn't necessarily make their production morally valuable. So to recognize the Christian perspective on biotechnology and farming, and particularly the manufacture of new strains of plants for farmer, it may be necessary to back up and look at the issue from a wider perspective. In order to do this, let us temporarily limit our discussion to a specific instance of applied biotechnology, and so argue from the specific to the general.

Golden Rice: feed the hungry and rescue the perishing

Perhaps the best example of a biotechnical miracle still in the budding is the creation of Golden Rice. In a nut shell --or perhaps more appropriately one might say in a rice shell

Golden Rice is a transgenic rice strain which has daffodil genes added that introduce beta carotene to the rice, and incidentally give it a beautiful golden sheen. Many strains of Golden rice also have specific genes that encourage iron to be collected in the rice grains. These are important because beta carotene allows the body to produce Vitamin A Deficiency in Vitamin A throughout third world countries has caused blindness in millions of children, and additionally worsens iron deficiencies. Iron deficiencies, of course, cause anemia, weakness, and even death. So Golden Rice has the potential to help prevent blindness and death in populations which eat a diet consisting almost entirely of rice. Such populations are found throughout the far east, especially in countries such as India and China.

Golden rice is a true biotechnological success story. It as painstakingly developed over years of "public" research funded jointly by universities, corporations, and government (European Union) forces. The development of this plant was truly groundbreaking, because it was the first successful case of pathway engineering as a method of sharing genes between plant types. When the research had been completed, the inventors primarily responsible for its development intended to release it for "humanitarian" purposes -- intended that it be given to subsistence farmers through the far East so as to combat vitamin deficiencies there. However, upon preparing for its release, the inventors discovered that patent issues applied which were not entirely expected. "There were 70 IPRs and TPRs belonging to 32 different companies and universities, which we had used in our experiments and for which we would need free licenses to be able to establish a 'freedom-to-operate' situation for our partners, who were keen to begin further variety development..." (Potrykus 2000) At this point, the story could easily have turned into a tirade against big business and industry. However, the creators of this strain realized quickly that without business "Much of the technology I had been using was publicly known because the inventors could protect their right." (Potrykus 2000) The creators quickly realized that they could work with business to create a compromise that would both allow the Golden Rice to reach needy subsistence farmers and impoverished nations, and produce a profit.

The story of Golden Rice shows how biotechnology businesses can be both moral and humanitarian, and also lucrative, providing mutual benefits for people of the world and the managers of industry. After deciding to work with industry, creators of the Golden Rice arranged for an industry leader, Zeneca, to take charge of arranging the licensing of their product. To support humanitarian needs, it was decided that golden rice would be freely licensed to subsistence farmers, which was generously defined as those who made less than 10,000 American dollars of income from Golden Rice.

Golden Rice has been a wonderful opportunity both for subsistence farmers and the impoverished in the far East, and for the biotechnology industry. For the poor of the world, the creation of Golden Rice ha followed the Christian calling to help those who are in danger (in this case of going blind and dying), and to feed the hungry. It has provided a valuable new product which can not only help to erase vitamin deficiencies, but also to allow the poor of the land to sell this Golden Rice to better their economic status up to a limit of $10,000 American Dollars per year, and after that the rice is not bizarrely expensive.

As for biotechnology, Golden Rice has provided evidence to assure the worried bioethicist of the world that genetic modification can be a positive thing. And it promises to provide profit as the country becomes better equipped to see (quite literally) the value of genetically modified crops, and to be invested in the growing of such crops once farmers do happily start making more than $10,000 per year. All in all, this is a win-win situation, showing the ethical and symbiotic relationship between big industry, biotechnology corporations, and the impoverished of the world.

So, the question becomes, what could anyone possibly say bad about Golden Rice? The answer is not that Golden Rice is bad for the environment, because it is not, or that it is harmful economically, because there is no hard evidence to that extent, or that it is in any way physically bad for anyone. Rather, the argument against Golden Rice has generally been that it functions as a "Trojan Horse" sneaking the idea of biotechnology into the mainstream of a greater portion of the world. Of course, this is only a problem if one feels there is something inherently wrong with biotechnology, which there is not. Golden Rice actually provides the perfect example of how positive biotechnology can be.

So although there are no truly legitimate concerns about the effects of biotechnology in terms of crops like Golden Rice, it is important to realize that some Christians hold a somewhat understandable ethical concern about this biotechnology. These Christians feel that in changing the genetics of plants, such as the rice plant, we are in essence acting in sin with the spirit of pride. It is as if we are saying to God, "We know better than you do what rice should look like! It should be more like a daffodil!" Some Christians feel that nature represents the perfected work of God, and that by "messing with" nature, we are in essence altering a masterpiece. They would suggest that it is as if someone were to walk… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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