- Darryl Macer, Ph.D.
Institute of Biological Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba Science City, 305, JAPAN
Eubios Ethics Institute Newsletter 2 (1992), 1.
If you have anything to contribute, especially letters on particular issues, or summaries of news found in your own country, and especially in languages different to English, please send reports. This newsletter is circulated directly to people in many countries, including several international organisations to whose members information is passed on. Books will be reviewed if sent.
Eubios Ethics Institute Newsletter 2 (1992), 15-16.
The full report will be published later this year, enquiries to: COSTED Secretariat, 24 Gandhi Mandap Road, Madras 600 025, INDIA.
The emphasis was on the concerns about the impacts and the progress of biotechnology in these areas in developing countries and also in the general Asia area. The status of biotechnology research in a range of countries (people from about 25 countries attended the meeting) was discussed. A general theme was that due to the very limited research facilities, human and material resources, research in these countries should focus on specific local needs, and not attempt to pursue the same research that the industrialised countries and in particular the huge companies in those countries, are doing. It would be a waste of limited resources. It is also important that developing countries research their local needs because these are generally ignored by researchers in industrialised countries.
However, many examples of useful research projects were described. One area that appeared to be well advanced in some developing countries was the development and application of biological pest control, and biopesticides, especially in India. National reports from Indonesia, Phillipines, Taiwan, Thailand, India, Nepal, Korea, Bangladesh, Singapore and Malaysia were presented, in addition to regional reports from Asia, Latin America, Western & Central Africa and Eastern and Southern Africa. A very successful example of regional cooperation in biotechnology from Latin America was described, which had crossed national boundaries and led to many cooperative research projects to join resources and result in successful projects.
In addition to the reports there were also keynote addresses on the scientific developments until now, and likely in the future, on the nutritional safety of farm products produced by genetic manipulation, on ethical issues, on environmental safety, and on sustainable development. A variety of issues were raised, which are familiar to the pages of this newsletter. What was unique of this conference was its focus on the issues for developing countries.
International safeguards on food safety and environmental releases of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) should be made, so that these countries are not used as testing grounds. Justice demands that the benefits and risks of new technology development are shared by all people. It may however, be difficult to control individual abuses, such as the secret release of genetically modified organisms in a developing country. Perhaps the only reassurance that we can take is that most such releases appear to be safe, but we should still attempt to regulate internationally in a consistent method.
The conference had enjoyable discussions, and we visited the Centre for Biotechnology at the adjacent Anna University to see a local laboratory, which is successfully making biopesticides based on
Contributions from readers in developing countries are welcome, and would be informative to readers who live in industrialised countries. The name "developing" is somewhat broad, I mean developing in industry, they may already be well developed in culture. In the reverse sense I do not use the word "developed" countries, because even more so, we cannot call the industrialised countries "developed" in a general sense. Some times their behaviour is very far from that.
Although it suffers from rapid population growth, the country side is still peaceful in many respects, and beautiful. On that note I should close, perhaps I would point out the comment noted in the section on "Environmental Issues", that the vice president of the world bank recently made. He said that because developing countries were relatively under polluted they could be dumping sites for toxic wastes of industrialised countries. We can hope that the country side of developing countries is not poisoned by the waste of other countries, they have enough problems of there own without exporting more.
During my brief time in India, I also had an opportunity to visit some medical doctors in a southern region of the diverse country. It made it even more clear how very important it is to have representatives from developing countries in joint discussions of biomedical ethics. Even if governments decree that such things as sex selection are illegal, perhaps in the majority of the countries of the world there will be continuation of the practice. Although we can argue that it is unethical, when facing the real situation that many people must live in, it is unrealistic to expect it to be followed. In some villages of the area I visited, I was told that it is routine policy to poison a new born infant who is the second child and a girl.
Faced with this situation, doctors may chose to work to change the social situation, but until it is changed they may also attempt to achieve more male pregnancies. Perhaps the real test is that if we claim sex selection is unethical, we should also be contributing to change the social situation which forces people to do it. The social pressures in India include payment of a dowry (officially stopped, but in practice everyone continues), and poor education for women, and social rejection if they are unmarried.