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Genetic Engineering as Mass Production

By djkimmel in MLP
Sat Feb 10, 2001 at 01:26:54 PM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)

Here is an interesting article at Forbes Global which talks about how genetic engineering has been used to splice the silk-producing genes of an Orb Weaver, a type of spider, into two Nigerian Dwarf Goats. The article goes on to talk about how genetic engineering can lead to efficient mass-production of certain items.

From the article:

But Jeffrey Turner, the molecular geneticist behind the goat gambit and CEO of the publicly held Nexia Biotechnologies, has more pragmatic goals. He believes that his animals can mass-produce drugs and highly engineered materials more cheaply and efficiently than vats and machines.

This article raises a number of interesting questions. Among the ones that spring to my mind are:

  • Is the genetic engineering of animals for mass-production purposes ethical?
  • Is the use of animals for mass-production purposes (think of cows and the milk they produce) ethical?
  • If your answers for these two questions are different, why are they different?
  • What do you think of this sort of thing? Is it the wave of the future? Should it be banned?

Additional Information

  • The company mentioned in the article, Nexia Biotechnologies, can be found at http://www.nexiabiotech.com/
  • The technology mentioned in the Forbes article is called BioSteel by Nexia.
  • Here is an article about Nexia's use of a former US Air Force base for animal housing


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What do you think of genetic engineering for mass-production?
o I like it 45%
o I don't like it 13%
o It should be outlawed 6%
o I am undecided 34%

Votes: 44
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o interestin g article
o http://www .nexiabiotech.com/
o BioSteel
o Here
o Also by djkimmel

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Genetic Engineering as Mass Production | 22 comments (7 topical, 15 editorial, 0 hidden)
Ethical treatment (4.75 / 4) (#11)
by bkeeler on Fri Feb 09, 2001 at 08:27:23 PM EST

I don't have any problems with the idea of raising animals for meat or other products such as milk, eggs or fur. I don't think it makes any difference whether the beasties are genetically engineered or not.

Of more concern is how the animals are treated. I don't like the idea of subjecting them to cramped conditions or pain just to make it a little bit more economical. I happily pay the extra few cents for "free range" eggs, for example, rather than buy the battery ones.

The danger here is that long term genetic engineering could conceivably result in grotesque beings that are constant pain, unable to move at all, just sit there their whole lives being milked for silk or whatever.

My only other concern with GM plants and animals is the same as introducing any species into an area where it is not indigenous. There is the possibility of them leaking out in the surrounding ecosystem and effectively taking it over.

...until the word "Maudling" is almost completely obscured.

Pain is relative (2.66 / 3) (#16)
by fluffy grue on Fri Feb 09, 2001 at 09:44:37 PM EST

If an animal knows only 'pain' all its life, how would it have anything to measure its existence against?
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

pain (4.00 / 2) (#18)
by Anonymous 6522 on Sat Feb 10, 2001 at 01:45:39 AM EST

I'm being hypothetical here, so don't take this personally.

Let's say that you have been beaten, underfed, and stuck in a cramped cage for your entire life. Would you know anything different? No. Would you have anything to complain about? No, all your experience deals with your cage and your beatings. Are you happy about your life? Do you have fun? No, you may be without hope, but you would still not like the beatings.

If someone discovered that people are more productive if they receive beatings from the time they are young children, then would it be right to justify this policy by saying that the children will never know anything different?

[ Parent ]

GM beings... (4.00 / 2) (#19)
by Anonymous 6522 on Sat Feb 10, 2001 at 02:01:34 AM EST

If we become competent genetic engineers I doubt any beings we produce will be in much pain. Some sadistic genetic engineers may design beings that are in constant pain, but I hope that the normal ones would design, say, a gland that constantly secretes a hormone that causes pleasure.

They just might make it so the being has as little of a nervous system as possible. Then there wouldn't be anything there to experience pain, just enough to control involuntary functions. If all the animal has to do is sit there and be milked, there is really no point for it to have a complex brain in the first place.

[ Parent ]

The thing that scares me (4.33 / 3) (#14)
by djkimmel on Fri Feb 09, 2001 at 09:04:27 PM EST

One thing that scares me is something that was originally introduced to me in the book Rama Revealed, by Arthur C. Clarke. In this book, one of the characters talked about a species which had used genetic engineering to change themselves for the better, or so they thought.

Unfortunately, there were some problems with the modified genes - they weren't viable in the long term. Eventually, this species succumbed to problems related to the genetic modifications they made. They didn't have an original, unmodified sample to use to help them find out what went wrong and they died out fairly quickly.

I have no problem with genetic engineering to improve food supplies or manufacture certain things, as long as the original creatures are still around.

If all cows were genetically altered to be resistant to Mad Cow Disease and produce even more milk and beef, things would be good. At least, until they developed problems that couldn't be corrected without a pure sample to work with.

Also, what of the implications of becoming extremely dependant on the material produced by a particualrly modified animal? If this animal is driven to extinction through a man-made genetic defect, we'd be in a fair amount of trouble, depending on how dependant we become on it.
-- Dave
I don't think it'd be a problem. (3.00 / 1) (#22)
by physicsgod on Sat Feb 10, 2001 at 03:12:21 PM EST

It's an interesting concept, but I don't think it'd ever happen. Think about it, if we ever got to the point where we could design genes to perform a specific task it wouldn't be hard to design a fix to any problem, even without the original. Just like you don't need the source code for Windows to build a better OS.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
My question (3.50 / 4) (#15)
by bisonbucks on Fri Feb 09, 2001 at 09:33:47 PM EST

What I want to know is, who decided to pick Nigerian Dwarf Goats?

Genetic Engineering as Mass Production | 22 comments (7 topical, 15 editorial, 0 hidden)
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