A College That Teaches Biology Or Animal Science Near Me Beyond Biology

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Three different things I read recently made me sit up and take a look at the threat biotechnology poses to the future of humanity. The first was an announcement made by scientists at the J Craig Venter Institute on their work on genome transplantation that enabled them to transform one type of bacteria into another. This is the first time in history that a completely synthetic organism has been created. The second was a statement made by Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and former President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science – considered one of today’s leading scientists. He declares “I’ve put a thousand dollars on a bet: By the year 2020, one instance of bio-bug or bio-terror will have killed a million people.” The third was that scientists at Shanghai Second Medical University have created the first human/animal chimera (an animal containing genetic material from parents of two or more distinctly different species) by fusing together cells from humans and mice.

The first information shows that biotechnology is moving forward at breakneck speed and has the ability to change things in a fundamental way. This capability has already translated into the development of drugs and other products—biotechnology now produces 40 percent of the drugs the US Food and Drug Administration approves each year.

The second shows that scientists of the caliber of Sir Martin Rees believe that it is likely that this capability could be used for malicious intent. Bio-weapons are the ideal weapons for terrorists and/or anarchists. The cost of establishing a biotech research laboratory is significantly less than that of developing nuclear or chemical weapons. The production of lethal toxins requires modest equipment, essentially the same as that needed for medical or agricultural programs: the technology is “dual use.”

Research teams have been able to reconstruct the polio virus as well as the 1918 pandemic flu virus (which killed somewhere between 20 and 40 million people) using only published DNA information and raw material from the mail orders. This knowledge and technology is already distributed among hospital staff, academic research institutes and factories. Thus, bioterrorism is a real possibility in the next decade with the invention of methods of killing that previously existed only in the realm of science fiction.

Sir Martin Rees also mentions the possibility of error on the part of laboratories and other responsible agencies. Ed Hammond of the Sunshine Project in Texas, which monitors the use of biological agents, says lab accidents happen far more often than the public knows. In recent years, the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in the UK (2007), the death of a laboratory worker at Texas A&M (2006) due to brucellosis after cleaning a high-content container, the exposure of 3 researchers at the Medical Center of Boston University. (2004) to tularemia or rabbit fever have occurred.. All these laboratories are well run and subject to many regulations. The same cannot be said for other laboratories in different parts of the world. Perhaps the worst bio-error occurred in 1979 in the former Soviet Union when weapons-grade anthrax escaped from a facility in Sverdlovsk, now known as Yekaterinburg, killing 68 people. The accident was covered up by the authorities and only came to light in 1998.

If there is a major explosion in the future, there may be severe restrictions from government authorities on the type of research and agents that can be used in experiments. However, this would not affect quests in red labs or by antisocial elements.

The Human Chimera Experiment in China is one that could not be carried out anywhere else in the world. Most do not have, at least at present, the scientific ability. Those that do, such as the US and Western Europe, have strict ethical codes and regulations that expressly prohibit such experimentation. However, even between the US and Europe, there is a big difference in the regulatory framework. In the US, biotechnology products have been widely tested and marketed. In the EU, few biotech products have received regulatory approval while most have faced a de facto moratorium.

Many countries do not have any kind of regulatory framework related to biotechnology or restrictions on the type of research that can be conducted. Terrible experiments could be carried out, without the knowledge of the rest of the world, or the authorities within the countries themselves. These may even attract groups to set up research facilities in the future – the same principle that attracts groups and individuals to tax havens such as Barbados, St Kitts, the Canary Islands etc.

Advances made in the field of biotechnology have the potential to change the lives of mankind for the better by influencing health, eradicating disease and creating miracle drugs. But we must also seriously consider what we must do to prevent Sir Martin Rees’ bet from coming true.

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