Challenge of Biotechnology (Review Paper)

  • Malcolm R. Dando Universrty of Bradford. West Yorkshirr, BD 7 1 DP, UK
  • Graham S. Pearson Universrty of Bradford. West Yorkshirr, BD 7 1 DP, UK
Keywords: Human Genome Code, Genetic engineering, Biological and Toxin weapons convention


The unravelling of the human genetic code whose first draft was announced in June 2000 has rightly blood been hailed as a momentous achievement, opening thc book of life, certain to be the dominant technology of the 21st century, which will inform all about medicine and biology. and lead us to a total understanding of life. Simultaneously, concerns have been expressed about thc implications of this work. In the past, major new technologies have been used intensively for hostile purposes. What is thc challenge that biotechnology poses in this regard'? This review paper looks at the enormous changes in civil society that thc genomics revolution could bring. Against this background, thc growing concerns about its potential misuses have been reviewed. Thc strengths and weaknesses or the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) are then touched upon. The BTWC presently lacks an adequate verification mechanism. Although biotechnology has been used by human beings since prehistoric times (eg. making of bread. cheese. wines) its scientific understanding came only in the latter part of the 19th century. Thc decisive turning point in the field came in the 1970s with the advent of genetic engineering. In the military context classical agents like anthrax and toxin remain the threat today. Although thc current level or sophistication for many biological agents is low, there is enormous potential for making more sophisticated weapons. It might be possible to specifically target the genetic makeup of different ethnic groups. The limited varieties of staple crops and the limited strains of modern animals make agriculture particularly open to attack. Another serious possibility is the impact of genomics in neuroscience. With a better understanding of cellular receptor systems and bioregulators, it is not inconceivable that new means would be evolved for disturbing the functions of the nervous system. Thc genomics revolution can be used for peaceful purposes. However, a key requirement is the political will to bring into force a Protocol to strengthen thc BTWC.
How to Cite
Dando, M., & Pearson, G. (2002). Challenge of Biotechnology (Review Paper). Defence Science Journal, 51(4), 333-340.
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