Experiences in Industrialised and Developing Countries
New Horizons in the Economics of Innovation series
Chapter 1: Introduction
On 22 February, 1997, the world's first transgenic sheep was created. It seems unusual to talk of a lamb not being born but rather being created, but this is because the lamb was like no other before it. It was created using DNA extracted from a sheep's mammary gland. To some, the creation of a genetically engineered animal opens up amazing new possibilities for the future of medical research, while to others, it raises questions regarding the ethical nature of cloning. 1 The two extreme views have equally large armies of followers which have frequently clashed over questions relating to the use of genetic material for research, and the release of genetic material into the environment, either for testing new products or for marketing genetically engineered products. The problem with the extreme views is that neither one is entirely accurate. Biotechnologies can cause harm through release if they are not tested and not correctly utilised. On the other hand it is not entirely correct or realistic to argue that because they may be dangerous if not tested before hand, biotechnologies should not be utilised at all. In fact, like technologies before them, biotechnologies have the potential to produce miracle drugs and cures and improve agricultural productivity many times over. However, it is equally true that we know very little about the effects of releasing genetically engineered organisms into the atmosphere without adequate safeguards. The emphasis, then, should surely be on encouraging the use of genetically altered material but in a...