Public funding for genetic engineeringbiotechnology research

Science is a part of our everyday life, from the clothes on our backs to the food that we eat. It is science that has allowed for our advances in production, transportation, farming and even entertainment. Never in our history however has science effected our lives as genetic engineering will and undoubtedly already does. We stand on the threshold of an era where the manipulation of the genetic instructions or DNA in human cells is no longer a fantasy but a very controversial reality.
We see the fruits of years of genetic research all around us. Genetically modified foods are everywhere. Biotech seeds yield a hefty portion of the corn, tomatoes, soybeans and other agricultural products and derivatives consumed by the American population on an annual basis (2000, Sunstein). Over 70% of the items Americans find on their supermarket shelves contain genetically modified content (1999, Wastell). We did not get to this point without endless hours of research and testing by dedicated scientists and researchers. This technology however is not without its opposition, in Europe genetically modified food products are aggressively regulated and labeled (2000, Sunstein). Papers have been written that allegedly show these crops not only damage the ecosystem as in the case of the Monarch butterfly but also are a danger to the animal or human who would ingest them as cited by Dr. Arpad Puzstai (1999, Lean).
The fact that a controversy exists for this type of research is one of the leading reasons why research of this type needs to be publicly funded. The people regulate publicly funded projects, the results and benefits of the research are readily available to the public and the time constraints for researchers are practically non-existent. Private funding on the other hand, which will continue regardless of public outcry, is impossible to regulate, benefits no one but big business and is usually difficult to get due to the fact that “Venture capitalists are looking for a return on investment in a 2-4 year period…” states Peter Bernardoni, a partner in Technology Funding, a venture capital firm (Halim, 1999).
Research projects such as the Human Genome Project (a government-funded program to map the estimated 100,000 genes that make up the human species) provide a valuable resource in the search for treatments and cures of genetic disorders. 400 of the 2000 genes studied have already been linked to genetic disorders. (1998, Starr & Taggart). As James D. Watson points out we may or may not be able to find a cure for certain diseases without this information, but the time and money that would be saved by utilizing it and connecting the predisposing genes to the disease could well be in the billions (1997).
Some people oppose genetic engineering because they fear that harmful, uncontrollable bacteria might be produced accidentally. Others worry about environmental damage by the deliberate introduction of organisms whose heredity has been altered. People question the morality of manipulating the genetic material of living creatures. Our fear of the unknown has slowed the progress of many scientific discoveries in the past. The thought of humans flying, or stepping on the moon was not easy for the average person to accept, but in time, these were accepted, and are now an everyday occurrence in our lives. With time, knowledge and exploration, genetic engineering too will come into full use in our society. This science is the newest and most exciting step into human evolution, and through knowledge and experimentation and research, genetic engineering’s possibilities are endless. Public funding of genetic research should help alleviate public fear by allowing the people a voice in the process.



Halim, N. S. (1999, August 30). Investing in the future: Innovative technologies. The Scientist, 13 [17], 8.
Lean, G. (1999, October 3). Expert on GM danger vindicated. The Sunday Independent (London). Retrieved October 25, 2000 from Genetically Manipulated Food News on the World Wide Web:
Starr, C. & Taggart, R. (1997). Recombinant DNA and genetic engineering. In L Behrens & L. Rosen (Eds.), Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum (6th ed.). pp.501-514. New York: Longman. (Reprinted from Biology: The unity and diversity of life, 8th ed. 1998).
Sunstein, C. R. (2000, October 23). Is nature good? [Review of the Book Pandora\'s picnic basket:The potential and hazards of genetically modified foods]. The