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BMS671 Ethical & Legal Issues In Biotechnology UITM Assignment Answer Malaysia

BMS671 Ethical & Legal Issues in Biotechnology” is a self-learning course offered at UITM in Malaysia. The course covers a range of topics, including the moral and ethical considerations related to biotechnology, both its advantages and disadvantages, and the legal aspects concerning its application. Students engage in various learning methods, including distance learning, self-study, group interactions, and tutorials. Additionally, the BMS671 course explores critical concerns in biotechnology and offers insights into the responsibilities and scope of work of a plant biotechnologist.

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Assignment Task 1 : Explain the moral and ethical issues that arises due to the use of biotechnology

Biotechnology, the application of biological processes, organisms, or systems to develop products and technologies, raises several moral and ethical concerns. Some of the key issues include:

  • Genetic Engineering and Modification: Genetic manipulation, including gene editing (e.g., CRISPR-Cas9), raises concerns about “playing God” and interfering with the natural order. Ethical dilemmas arise when modifying the genetic makeup of organisms, as it may have unintended consequences for biodiversity and ecological balance.
  • Informed Consent: In biotechnological research involving human subjects, obtaining informed consent is crucial. However, there may be challenges in ensuring complete understanding, especially when complex genetic information is involved.
  • Privacy and Genetic Data: Biotechnology generates vast amounts of genetic data, which may include sensitive information about an individual’s predisposition to diseases. Protecting this data from misuse and unauthorized access is a significant ethical concern.
  • Access and Equity: Biotechnological advancements may lead to unequal access to benefits, treatments, or enhancements. Ethical questions arise about who should have access to these technologies and whether they exacerbate existing social inequalities.
  • Environmental Impact: The release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the environment can have unpredictable ecological consequences. Balancing potential benefits against potential risks to ecosystems is a moral dilemma.
  • Animal Testing: Biotechnological research often involves animal testing, raising ethical concerns about animal welfare and the use of sentient beings for scientific progress.
  • Cloning: Human cloning poses profound ethical questions related to individuality, identity, and the potential for exploitation or commodification of cloned individuals.
  • Dual-Use Technology: Biotechnology can be used for both beneficial and harmful purposes. Ensuring responsible research and preventing the misuse of technology for bioterrorism is a significant ethical challenge.

Assignment Task 2 : Identify ethical and social responsibility issues related to the use of specific biotechnology and molecular biology applications and discuss their impact to the receiving communities.

Example: Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are a widely used biotechnology application with potential ethical and social responsibility issues:

  • Environmental Concerns: GMOs may interbreed with wild species, potentially leading to unintended consequences for ecosystems and biodiversity.
  • Labeling and Consumer Choice: Ethical questions arise regarding the labeling of GMO products. Consumers may demand the right to know whether their food contains GMOs to make informed choices.
  • Corporate Control: The dominance of a few biotech corporations in the GMO industry raises concerns about monopolies, patents, and the control of the food supply.
  • Health and Safety: Assessing the long-term effects of GMO consumption on human health and the environment raises ethical issues about potential risks and uncertainties.
  • Impact on Farmers: GMO seeds often come with contractual agreements that restrict farmers’ ability to save and replant seeds, leading to concerns about farmers’ rights and livelihoods.

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Assignment Task 3 : Explain basic legal issues relating to work in biotechnology e.g patents and intellectual property, and argue the ethical vs commercial benefits of these issues using specific case studies .

Example: Patents and Intellectual Property

Legal issues surrounding patents and intellectual property in biotechnology can have both ethical and commercial implications:

  • Ethical Implications: Patenting genes or living organisms raises ethical concerns about commodifying life and limiting access to essential technologies or treatments. Patents on certain genetic sequences may impede research and innovation.
  • Commercial Benefits: Intellectual property protection encourages investment in biotechnological research by allowing companies to safeguard their discoveries and potentially profit from them. This motivates innovation and the development of new products.
  • Case Study – Myriad Genetics: Myriad Genetics patented the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. This led to a monopoly on genetic testing, limiting access and driving up costs. The ethical debate centered around whether a company could own exclusive rights to naturally occurring genes.
  • Balancing Access and Innovation: Striking a balance between protecting intellectual property and ensuring fair access to essential biotechnological innovations is a complex ethical challenge.

Assignment Task 4 : Evaluate the ethical issues regarding ownership of biotechnological product and resources, using specific examples.

One of the significant ethical issues in biotechnology relates to the ownership of biotechnological products and resources, especially when it involves patents and intellectual property. Below are specific examples that highlight the ethical dilemmas associated with ownership:

Example 1: Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Seeds

Monsanto, now part of Bayer, developed and patented Roundup Ready seeds. These genetically modified seeds were engineered to be resistant to the herbicide Roundup, allowing farmers to use the herbicide to control weeds without harming their crops. However, the ownership and use of Roundup Ready seeds raised several ethical concerns:

  • Monopoly and Market Control: Critics argued that Monsanto’s patent on Roundup Ready seeds granted the company a monopoly over a significant portion of the agricultural market. This control raised concerns about the impact on farmers’ choices and the potential exploitation of farmers through high seed prices.
  • Seed Saving and Farmers’ Rights: Monsanto’s patent restricted farmers from saving and replanting seeds harvested from Roundup Ready crops. This limitation raised ethical questions about the traditional practice of seed saving, farmer autonomy, and the potential loss of biodiversity in agriculture.
  • Environmental Impacts: The widespread adoption of Roundup Ready seeds led to increased herbicide use, potentially contributing to environmental issues like the development of herbicide-resistant weeds and the harm to non-target organisms.
  • Access to Genetic Resources: Critics argued that the genetic resources used to develop Roundup Ready seeds were derived from various sources, including traditional and indigenous knowledge. The patenting of these resources raised ethical concerns about the fair compensation and recognition of the contributions of local communities.

Assignment Task 5 : Provide opinion and debate ethical issues related to biotechnology of major public concern e.g. GMO as food, stem cell research, human cloning etc from the point-of-view of commercial entities and the public consumer

GMO as Food:

Commercial Entities: Biotech companies may emphasize the benefits of GMOs, such as increased crop yields, pest resistance, and enhanced nutritional content. They may argue that GMOs can help address global food security challenges and reduce reliance on harmful pesticides.

Public Consumers: Ethical concerns for consumers might revolve around potential health risks, environmental impacts, and the lack of transparency regarding GMO labeling. Some consumers may advocate for the right to choose whether to consume GMOs and for clearer information about their presence in food products.

Stem Cell Research:

Commercial Entities: Biotech firms may highlight the immense therapeutic potential of stem cell research, including their use in regenerative medicine and treating various diseases. They may argue that investing in stem cell research could lead to groundbreaking medical advancements.

Public Consumers: Ethical issues for the public might center around the use of embryonic stem cells, which raises questions about the beginning of life, consent for tissue donation, and religious or moral beliefs regarding the sanctity of embryos.

 Human Cloning:

Commercial Entities: Biotech companies may emphasize the potential benefits of human cloning, such as creating patient-specific organs for transplantation or advancing scientific understanding of human development. They may argue that cloning technology could revolutionize medicine.

Public Consumers: Ethical concerns for the public may include fears of human exploitation, loss of individuality, and the potential for cloning to be used for unethical purposes, such as creating designer babies or human cloning for reproduction.

In both cases, the opinions and debates surrounding these ethical issues are complex and multifaceted. Commercial entities often prioritize innovation, scientific progress, and profit potential, while public consumers are more focused on safety, informed consent, access to information, and societal implications. Striking a balance between commercial interests and the public good is essential in advancing biotechnological applications responsibly and ethically. Open dialogue, transparent communication, and evidence-based decision-making can help navigate the ethical challenges posed by biotechnology in a way that benefits both commercial entities and the broader public.

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