Related or contrasting ideas may be found in the sections on Animal Rights, Knowledge, Life, Medical Ethics, Nature, Progress, and Science

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Related or contrasting ideas may be found in the sections on Animal Rights, Knowledge, Life, Medical Ethics, Nature, Progress, and Science.

Scope of biotechnology

Biotechnology is using living organisms and their parts

Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, Applications of biotechnology to crops: benefits and risks (CAST Issue paper #12), 1999, Online:

Biotechnology: “the science and technology aimed at understanding and using living organisms or parts thereof to improve the organism for specific human uses or to make or modify a product.”
Biotechnology does not serve any specific ends or purposes

The President’s Council on Bioethics, Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness, 2003, p. 3

“As with all techniques and the powers they place in human hands, the techniques and powers of biotechnology enjoy considerable independence from ties to narrow or specific goals. Biotechnology, like any other technology, is not for anything in particular. Like any other technology, the goals it serves are supplied neither by the techniques themselves nor by the powers they make available, but by their human users. Like any other means, a given biotechnology once developed to serve one purpose is frequently available to serve multiple purposes, including some that were not imagined or even imaginable by those who brought the means into being.”
Biotechnology is not yet a mature science

Freeman Dyson (professor of physics, Institute for Advanced Study), “The Question of Global Warming,” The New York Review of Books, June 12, 2008. Online:, accessed June 3, 2008

“The science and technology of genetic engineering are not yet ripe for large-scale use. We do not understand the language of the genome well enough to read and write it fluently. But the science is advancing rapidly, and the technology of reading and writing genomes is advancing even more rapidly.”
Genetic issues are no longer newsworthy

Bill Armer (Lecturer in Social Policy, Univ. of Leeds, UK), Eugenetics: a polemical view of social policy in the genetic age, New Formations, Spring 2007, p. 96

“Indeed, and all the more so in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation of New Orleans, media attention has largely shifted from ‘yesterday’s news’ of the Human Genome Project and biotechnological innovation to discussion of climate change and impending ecological disasters. In the process, and largely by default, genetic technology and its use now seems to have been relegated to the mundane world of the everyday application of science. Genetics is no longer sexy, and public debate about both its practical use and associated ethical issues is largely muted.”

Genetic engineering defined

Manipulation of DNA

Eve and Albert Stwertka (physicians and college instructors), Genetic Engineering, Revised edition, 1989, p. 11

“Genetic engineering involves the manipulation of the molecules that make up the innermost structure of living matter. These molecules control the hereditary information carried by cells.”
Manipulation of DNA in vitro

Chambers’ Science and Technology Dictionary, 1988, p. 385

Genetic engineering: “Colloquial for genetic manipulation.”

Genetic manipulation: “Term for the procedures with which it is now possible to combine DNA sequences from widely different organisms in vitro, often with great precision.”
Production of novel genetic combinations

McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technological Terms, Fourth edition, 1990, p. 798

Genetic engineering: “The intentional production of new genes and alteration of genomes by the substitution or addition of new genetic material.”

Research and DNA recombination

Van Norstrand’s Scientific Encyclopedia, Seventh edition, 1990, Volume 1, p. 1309

Genetic engineering: “This term, used mainly in lay scientific literature, encompasses the gene research and gene recombination techniques which have expanded at an enormous rate since the early 1970s, during which period a means for cutting the DNA molecule by using restriction enzymes was discovered.”

Recombination of DNA and injection into organisms

McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, Sixth edition, 1987, volume 7, p. 638

Genetic engineering: “The artificial recombination of nucleic acid molecules in the test tub, then insertion into a virus, bacterial plasmid, or other vector system, and the subsequent incorporation of the chimeric molecules into a host organism in which they are capable of continued propagation. The construction of such molecules has also been termed gene manipulation because it usually involved the production of novel genetic combinations by biochemical means.”

Use of novel DNA to alter the traits of living things

The American Heritage Dictionary of Science, 1986, p. 249

Genetic engineering: “The scientific alteration of genes or genetic material, especially through gene-splicing, to produce desirable new traits in organisms or to eliminate undesirable ones.”

Manipulation of DNA to alter hereditary traits at any of several levels

The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged Second Edition, 1987, p. 796

Genetic engineering: “The development and application of scientific methods, procedures, and technologies that permit direct manipulation of genetic material in order to alter the hereditary traits of a cell, organism, or population.”

Includes any human-controlled manipulation of genes or the fetus

Joseph Fletcher (prof. of medical ethics, Univ. of Virginia School of Medicine), The Ethics of Genetic Control, 1974, p. 39

“Genetic engineering, as defined by the American Medical Association, ‘might be considered as covering anything having to do with the manipulation of gametes or the fetus, for whatever purpose, from conception other than by sexual union, to treatment of disease in utero, to the ultimate manufacture of a human being to exact specifications.’”
Includes any human-controlled intervention in heredity

The Third Barnhart Dictionary of New English, 1990, p. 203

Genetic engineering: “Any form of human intervention in hereditary processed to alter the character or nature of the organism.”

Limited to human-created bacteria as “chemical factories”

The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged Second Edition, 1987, p. 796

Genetic engineering: “A technique that produced unlimited amounts of otherwise unavailable or scarce biological product by introducing DNA isolated from animals or plants into bacteria and then harvesting the product from a bacterial colony, as human insulin produced in bacteria by the human insulin gene. Also called biogenetics.”

Limited to attempts to alter human traits by manipulating DNA

Carl Heintze (public information officer, The Institute for Medical Research), Genetic Engineering: Man and Nature in Transition, 1974, p. 189

“Genetic control and engineering: The alteration of genes, the use of chemistry, physics, and biology to control the future of Homo sapiens.”
Nature does it

Tom Beauchamp (prof. of philosophy, Kennedy School of Ethics, Georgetown Univ.), Health and Human Values, 1983, p. 177

“Through nature’s own ‘genetic engineering,’ which has been going on since long before humankind began doing it, unknown mutations with unforseen qualities might develop.”
Nature and man both do it

June Goodfield (fellow of the British Royal Society of Medicine), Playing God: Genetic Engineering and the Manipulation of Life, 1977, p. 69

“We must first notice three important distinctions between genetic engineering as traditionally practiced in nature, and as presently practiced by man. When widely divergent genetic materials were combined and recombined by nature, the resulting hybrid had to be of a novel, superior type to survive.”
Only man does it

Eve and Albert Stwertka (physicians and college instructors), Genetic Engineering, Revised edition, 1989, p. 11

“Genetic engineering is a totally new process and is based on the science of molecular biology, which came into being barely forty years ago.”

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