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For good or...
...for evil? The debate continues

The world looked at biotechnology with immense hope and expectations four decades ago. People look at the advancements even today with the same hope; albeit tempered by some speculations. Biotechnology has long carried hopes of revolutionising medical science and agriculture on its shoulders.

Indubitably, the biotech industry is highly progressive. It is one of the most research-intensive industries. For instance, while in 2006, publicly traded biotech companies in the US spent around $27.1 billion on R&D (and created 180,000 employment opportunities; all life-sciences activities generated 1.3 million jobs directly in 2006 and an additional 7.5 million jobs indirectly), in 2010, the industry is expected to generate $100 billion in revenues annually. Over 5,000 companies are operating worldwide in the field of biotechnological product development and innovations.

Nevertheless, some concerns related to biotechnology are clearly not baseless. Technical issues like proper genes delivery mechanism, limited knowledge of the functions of genes to be used, multigenes disorders and environmental impact are yet to be properly researched and clarified. Also, the spectre of evil use of biotechnology is also looming large, as there is danger of biological weapons passing into the hands of terror groups.

The issue of human cloning is a grave ethical concern. Combined with nano-technology, this field is expected to (in the near future) provide workable solutions to reverse aging completely. The sociological dilemma that humans will have has not even been discussed properly, leave alone researched. Nevertheless, the good that biotech can do is still overwhelming. Over 9 million people die worldwide every year out of hunger and malnutrition, of which 5 million are children. GM crops do carry the promise of helping them out. 7.6 million people die out of cancer annually. Around 31.3 million adults and 2.1 million children had HIV by the end of 2008. Can biotechnology save such cases? Perhaps. Should research be promoted? Definitely.

By:- Akram Hoque

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