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Biotechnology : Not an End, but a Means (From Mr NANA, Provincial High School of Kaya)

In various parts of the world and especially in developed countries, people are applying biotechnological knowhow. Its goals are to fight poverty and maintain biodiversity. But there’s a dark moral cloud hanging over biotechnology. Like most Westerners, the Dutch are ambivalent about using the latest biotechnological knowhow to produce food. Taking the genetic modification of crops for instance, some governments support research into it and encourage its development and commercialisation. And while no food producer is yet selling genetically modified (GM) crops, they are being developed. On the other hand, consumers are apprehensive about how genetic modification might affect them and their environment. In Germany, the industry shuns experiments with GM maize but won’t use it because of a perceived public aversion to gene technology, for it might enter milk and cheese via cows. GM maize is being grown outside the dairy industry and separated from other crops. According to the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, biotechnology is a means rather than an end. In 1992, the Ministry launched an initiative to promote biotechnology. The aim was to unleash its potential to fight poverty in developing countries. As well as fighting poverty, farmers play an active part in developing and using biotechnology they will be helping maintain agro-biodiversity: the sum total of components, structure, and functions in an agro-ecosystem. Unlike natural ecosystems, agro-ecosystems have a distinct place for people. Agro-biodiversity includes not only crops and cattle, but also treatment methods, soil use, crop rotation, and the processing of food. Farmers using biotechnology products like GM seeds will have to continue trying to make it physically impossible to re-use seed or modify it further. They are working to produce sees that will no longer germinate. This line of research nicknamed “Terminator Technology has aroused indignation worldwide.

The use of biotechnology in agriculture will remain a subject of heated debate for many years. The stakes are high. It will be a shame if its negative effects prevail.

Adapted text from Holland knowhow, Volume 3, N°1, June 1999


To shun: to avoid


1) What is biotechnology? (03 points)
2) Explain why biotechnology is said to be a means rather than an end. (04 points)
3) How can biotechnology contribute to fight against poverty? (05 points)
4) Are you in favour of biotechnology? Justify your answer (08 points)
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