What are some of the reasons the use of biotechnology is controversial?

There are four main concerns that, as a society, we have when it comes to this constantly evolving field, damage to the environment. This concern is perhaps the most cited by those who oppose GMOs. Although biotechnology has many uses and benefits, there are also some controversies surrounding it, such as with regard to genetic engineering. Environmental biotechnology has the potential to help mitigate pollution by using microbes and their byproducts, rather than chemical methods, to treat solid, liquid and gaseous waste.

Plastic pollution, one of the most pressing environmental concerns, can also be addressed through biotechnology. For example, some bacterial enzymes can digest the raw material used to produce single-use bottles for beverages. In addition, bioplastics can be produced with renewable raw materials, such as plants, vegetables and other recycled forms of waste, which can be environmentally friendly alternatives to petroleum-based plastics. Environmental groups, concerned consumers, traditional farmers and others have protested against it.

Some people refuse to buy bioengineering products. Politicians in many countries have enacted laws that restrict biotechnological research in certain areas. However, the scope of biotechnology continues to expand, despite these actions. To ensure that biotechnology-related research is conducted in a responsible manner, the international community must collaborate to develop standards that regulate the protection and safety of experiments, formulate the long-debated verification and monitoring mechanism, under the Biological Weapons Convention, and incorporate clauses that establish mechanisms for accountability and accountability in the event of violations.

Biotechnology, as defined by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, refers to “the application of scientific and engineering principles to the processing of materials by biological agents to provide goods and services”. In general, the Cartagena Protocol seeks to balance the propensity of advances in biotechnology to help countries protect their biodiversity and to develop economically, with the threats that biotechnology represents to biodiversity and human health if something were to go wrong. Some of the possible controversial issues related to agricultural biotechnology are the production of genetically modified crops and the transfer of transgenes. Taking into account the problems inherent in the dual use of biotechnology, the Biological Weapons Convention does not categorically prohibit any biological material.

In addition, the rise of the DIY community and the open source nature of this movement have raised concerns that terrorists can easily obtain the information needed to turn biotechnology into a weapon, although none of these DIY groups have shown nefarious intentions. This creates obstacles to the adoption of biotechnological techniques and can make it difficult to give the green light to various innovations so that they can help improve human health. To better understand the security threats that arise from recent advances in biotechnology, it is worth returning to the above-mentioned hypothetical Ebola scenario. Globally, treaties, conventions and guidelines have been drafted to ensure the fair and transparent promotion of biotechnology, but these mechanisms do not provide the necessary oversight to promote the responsible conduct of biotechnology-related research.

For example, when state actors deliberately misuse biotechnology, states that are signatories to the Biological Weapons Convention, in the absence of a verification and monitoring protocol, can only consult each other or file a complaint with the UN Security Council. To address these challenges, most countries have adopted informal guidelines or laws to ensure the safety of biotechnology-related research, have instituted mechanisms to prevent unauthorized access to biological material, and have created export control regimes to regulate the transfer of sensitive biological material. However, with improvements in knowledge about the role of individual plant genes, modern biotechnological techniques can be used to add, delete or edit specific genes in order to produce the desired variety, thus reducing the possibility of unwanted effects. For example, the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the promising role that biotechnology can play in this way.

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