In Context #17 (Spring, 2007, pp. 3-4); copyright 2007 by The Nature Institute
Putting Genetic Miscalculation on the Record
At The Nature Institute we are beginning a project to investigate and make widely known the unintended effects of genetic manipulation. Here we describe briefly the need for the project and give two concrete examples. You can expect to hear more from us on this topic in the coming year.
In science labs and biotech companies around the globe, organisms—bacteria, plants, and animals—are being altered every day in new ways by genetic engineering, from goats that make silk proteins in their milk to bananas that produce a cholera vaccine, from glow-in-the-dark monkeys to plants that produce pesticides. A Pandora's box of opportunity has opened up in the past twenty years to manipulate organisms in virtually any way the genetic engineer's or venture capitalist's fantasy envisions. The experimental organism is treated as a means to an end, as a medium to realize an intention. The only limiting consideration is: does it work? What is remarkably absent from consideration is the question whether the experiments might be impinging upon the biological integrity of the manipulated organisms themselves. This question seems irrelevant as long as you view organisms as mechanisms to be altered or as commodities to be