Hazards of biotechnology

Biotechnology is the application of biological and technical solutions to problems, and often refers to the industrial use of microorganisms (perhaps genetically altered) to perform chemical processing, for example of waste or water, or to manufacture hormones or enzymes for medicinal and commercial purposes.

One of the main areas where the development of biotechnology is raising concern is in agriculture. Those opposed to its development warn that dominant agricultural systems are becoming over-artifical and can transmit such traits to the natural system. Transgenes can spread to certain weeds creating herbicide resistant plants and the mutation of resistant pests. Present understanding of biology and ecosystems cannot predict the impact of biotechnology on the environment.

Two genetically engineered crop species -- a tomato and rapeseed -- both resistant to the antibiotic kanamycin, have been approved for commercial use in the UK. There is concern that the antibiotic resistance could be transferred to other organisms, for example stomach bacteria, which might reduce the clinical use of kanamycin in the treatment of tuberculosis.
The rush into biotechnology, through patents, is anti-research, anti-science and anti-democratic. It breaks with the traditions of research being done in pursuit of a cure, not a fortune; of farmers saving seeds, propagating plants and sharing them as protection against the larger, unpredictable forces of nature. These cures and the seeds have always been part of the global commons. Patenting has distorted our understanding of this.
(D) Detailed problems