Chapter 6: Biotechnology and Biodiversity: The Links
Page 91 6— Biotechnology and Biodiversity: The Links 6.1— Introduction While the first section in this series of essays examined the positive and potentially less positive impacts of biotechnology on a range of activities in industrialised and developing countries, this section looks at the links between biotechnology and its key input, namely biological material. The revolutionary new products developed by biotechnologists depend greatly on the availability of germplasm and a knowledge of its properties and uses. It is the variability of this biological material that allows biotechnologists to examine and experiment with their properties to produce lifesaving new drugs and higher yielding varieties of new crops. Our knowledge of these characteristics and indeed of the total number of species that exist on earth is, however, limited. Nevertheless, the need to understand the manner in which species interact with one another and their environments has become more apparent with the widespread use of biotechnology. This chapter examines the concept of biological diversity, its importance and our need to understand it, and the relationship between biotechnology and biological diversity. It begins by introducing the reader to the concept of biodiversity and the various definitions that have been given to it. The first section also discusses the reasons why biodiversity is acknowledged as an important resource for present and future generations, and why considerable difficulties exist in attaching appropriate values to this resource. This is followed by a brief overview of the literature on developing a framework for the conservation of biodiversity...
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