Is Genetic Manipulation Compatible with Sustainable Development?

genetic engineeringThe U.S. Department of Agriculture has given a preliminary green light to the first commercial production of a food crop engineered to contain human genes—a modified rice that contains bacteria-fighting proteins. But the supposed benefits of the product, which will be used in anti-diarrhea medications, may not even be realized, according to Worldwatch researchers.

“There’s no guarantee that the public will use this in poorer nations, as patent issues have obstructed altruistic biotech applications before,” notes Worldwatch Institute Senior Researcher Brian Halweil. Research Associate Danielle Nierenberg says that “most of these GM-enhanced varieties of crops don’t really address the root problems of poverty and disease.”

It’s not just rice that is under contention. Humans may one day be able to purchase smarter, stronger, and better-looking “designer babies” thanks to the rapidly developing field of human genetic technologies. But as Richard Hayes with the Center for Genetics and Society writes in the current issue of World Watch magazine, to prevent nightmare scenarios, “It is imperative that individuals and organizations committed to a sustainable, just, and truly human future take steps to bring these technologies under effective national and international oversight and control.”