Biological weapons and new methods of combating disease are only a few of the benefits of biotechnology. Fortunately, most countries have enacted a range of legal safeguards to promote responsible research, including export control regimes for biological material. While these mechanisms are an important step toward global biotechnology cooperation, they are not enough to effectively combat the threats posed by the technology. Ultimately, more international cooperation is required to safeguard society from bioterrorist attacks.
Moreover, the development of new biotechnologies raises a range of individual rights concerns. Government-sponsored eugenics programs challenge procreative liberties, while genetic screening and biobanking raise concerns about discrimination and privacy. Life-sustaining devices challenge the right to die, while the non-labeling of GM foods undermines the right to know. Similarly, DNA evidence used in court must occur in the context of an individual’s right to consult a neutral expert.
The field of biotechnology covers several different disciplines, including molecular biology, genetics, and plant breeding. Its diverse applications range from pharmaceuticals to agricultural products to biofuels. Every year, new products and techniques emerge in the biotech industry, which is used in fields such as agriculture, food production, and biosecurity. Many of the advancements in biotechnology are based on the basic biology sciences. For example, synthetic biology techniques are based on genetic engineering.
Moreover, the new technologies developed through biotechnology are more precise and predictable than ever. They produce better characterized products and pose ethical and safety concerns. Indeed, more than two dozen gene-spliced drugs are currently being developed, which is a testament to the value of biotechnology. In addition to the pharmaceutical industries, several hybridoma-derived drugs are currently in clinical trials. And the list continues to grow. However, there are a number of challenges that must be overcome before biotechnology becomes widely accepted as a viable technology.
There are numerous criticisms and benefits of biotechnology, but one of the most common is that it threatens natural systems. In the case of the development of a new coronavirus vaccine, for example, the introduction of gene-splicing technologies could disrupt the delicate balance that makes nature so complex. Some critics say that these new technologies can lead to superweeds. They also claim that GM genes contaminate non-GMO crops and threaten biodiversity. They also raise human health issues, arguing that GM animals and plants may be responsible for allergies and antibiotic resistance.
Aside from the high costs involved, biotech companies also face a highly uncertain process of obtaining regulatory approval for new drugs. Biotech products can be highly costly to develop, and small biotech firms may not be able to recover from these hurdles. Hence, biotech companies need a diversified revenue base and strong pipelines to survive. This is the main reason that biotech exchange-traded funds are so popular. A biotech exchange-traded fund will hold many biotech companies and offer investors a diversified portfolio.
Several commercial applications of biotechnology have emerged in recent years. These include the creation of pest-resistant crops, weakened viruses for use in vaccines, and many other technologies. There are also numerous biosynthetic products, such as human insulin. Human insulin is produced in bacteria, and hepatitis vaccine antigen is synthesized in yeast. Likewise, edible oils can be expressed from seeds and bacterial cells. Moreover, monoclonal antibodies are produced in human immune cells.