s415.c08.fa10 - SOCIOLOGY 415: Technology and Society...

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Unformatted text preview: SOCIOLOGY 415: Technology and Society University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa , Fall 2010 Textbook: Volti, Rudi. 2009. Society and Technological Change. 6t h edition. Worth Publishers Inc. REVIEW, PT. III: HOW TECHNOLOGY AFFECTS THE HEALT H OF THE EARTH AND ITS INHABITANTS. CHAPTER 8: GENETIC TECHNOLOGIES (137-150) There is a familiar theme — every technological advance is both a solution and a problem. The fundamental scientific insight underlying many emerging medical technologies is that growth and reproductive mechanisms of each cell are governed by the basic unit of heredity — the gene. Some genes are defective, giving rise to a variety of d isorders. Genetic screening or actually intervening in an organism’s genetic code offers revolu tionary new ways of diagnosing, curing, u and even preventing the emergence of many disorders ( 137). During the early 20th century, Thomas Hunt Morgan found that chromosomes present in cell nuclei were the site of the key agent of heredity — the gene. In the 1940s, D NA was identified as the key constituent of genes. In 1953, James W atson and Francis Crick determined that the molecular structure of DNA consists of pairs of molecules attached to sugar-phosphate backbo nes that form intertwined spirals — the now-famous double helix. This discovery laid the foundation for rapidly h expanding insights into the functioning and reproduction of cells (138). n In 1973, Stanley Cohen of S tanford University and Herbert Boyer of the University of California produced the first organisms containing genetic material transferred from another organism. They used special enzymes to cut apart the DNA extracted from the cells of a toad. The d resulting strands of DNA were spliced into a bacterial p lasmid (a viirus-like DNA entity) to make new DNA molecules that were subsequently introduce d into the host organism, the common bacterium Escherichia coli. Bacteria with the new ge netic endo wment were selected from ordinary bacteria by linking the DNA fragments of the former to genes that conferred a resistance to antibiotics. Accordingly, when all the bacteria wer e exposed to an antibiotic, only those containing the new genetic material survived. Continu ed advances in laboratory techniques allowed scientists to discover the distinctive sequence o f bases that characterized the DNA of a few individual genes….The eventual determination of t the human genetic map had become a distinct possibility (138). The potential monetary value of genetic engineering wa s underscored when, in 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a human-made organism (in this case a bacterium that could digest oil) was entitled to full patent protection. Today, patent protection has been extended to genes themselves (or even a fragment of a gene). After being a awarded a patent, the holder would then ducts have an exclusive right to market laboratory tests, diagn ostic devices, and therapeutic prod a based on the knowledge of that particular gene. (Read p .139 re patents and “patent stacking.”) Genetically based technologies are now a very big bu siness. The 3,933 U.S. patents held by 195 universities and other research institutions broug ht in $1.3 b illion in licensing income in g 2003 alone. The number of gene-related patent applica tions now runs into the millions, and a great amount of revenue may hinge on the granting or re fusal of a single application (139). In some quarters, genetic modification of food crops has become especially attractive as a way of dealing with present and future food shortages. The costs of cultivation may be lowered through a new means of controlling weeds, pests, and diseases. G enetic modification can also be used to increase the nutritional value of foods, to create the pro duction of “edible vaccines” that prevent o certain disease when they are eaten, and to promote “c onservation tillage — a mode of energyc n Page 1 of 2 SOCIOLOGY 415: Technology and Society University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa , Fall 2010 cultivation that conserves the soil and the organisms in it by eliminating or sharply reducing d for regular plowing (140). ally modified crops now constitute a significan t portion of the ood economy — by 2006, eight million farmers in 21 countries tivating genetically modified food crops. The U .S. is by far the ser of genetically modified crops, with 57.7 million hectares sown o At a distant second, was Argentina (19.1 million h hectares). At this netically modified soybeans, canola, cotton, and corn dominate market. At least 60% of processed foods in U.S supermarkets S. one or more GM ingredients — usually corn, soy, or canola (142). on to genetically modified crops can be found throughout the d some European countries have put a moratoriium on their use. a shared concern that changing the genetic m akeup of plants gerous venture into uncharted territories. Oppo nents of GM crops point to the possible e of new allergens or toxins that could afflict a significant n number of the consumers of ods (142). poor countries, the use of genetically modified crops raises important issues: (i) Seeds tically modified crops cost more than naturally occurring varieties, and would intensify c inequalities, (ii) widespread use of GM crops would increase monoculture — cultivation a few varieties of plants over a wide area — and pose a danger of massive crop failures imination of natural firewalls that prevent the sp read of a pest or disease (142). loning, Present and Future (143). The patenting of genes and the growing of genetically food crops are prominent examples of the leg al and ethical issues raised by recently ed biological technologies. spect of human cloning has raised many ethical questions. Will members of a particular of the population be inclined to clone themselv es, and are they the kind of people who e perpetuated? Will people with particular abilit ties allow themselves to be cloned for a hat prospective parents will be able to have a ch with inborn talents? Will people with hild d organs clone offspring so they are guarantee d future organ replacements that pose er of rejection? Might it be possible to eventually clone individuals from the cells of dead Concerns over human cloning have led severa l governments to ban any efforts in this , and the U.S. government has barred the u se of federal funds for human cloning ven . Even so, cloning is a technology that will be d ifficult or ev impossible to contain — acit nor direct government support is essential fo r human clo oning. (144-5). tem Cells and Future Therapies (145-6). Em ergence of mammal cloning, stem-cell research, and geneticallly modified foods has given rise to a host of ethical concerns that touch upon some of the most basic issues of human existence. G overnments are faced with the task of creating appropriate public policies to encourage the development of beneficial technolog ies while preventing the emergence of harmful ones (146). Eugenics movement — from late 19th C. to 1960s (147-8). The elimination of genetically borne defects is no longer a government policy but now is an ind dividual, personal matter, as physicians and parents-to-be make extensive use of a variety of tests to determine the presence of genetically linked disorders such as hs and Down Syndrome, in which case they ma y decide if a fetus should be aborted or o term…. Fastening upon genetic endowments to the exclusion of everything else is a c form of determinism that harks back to excess es of the eugenics movement (148). Page 2 of 2 ...
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This note was uploaded on 11/15/2010 for the course SOC 415 taught by Professor Swift,d during the Fall '08 term at University of Hawaii, Manoa.

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