International Policy and Collaboration
As countries like Great Britain take hostile views on genetic engineering, more and more companies find it easier to conduct their experiments in countries such as China and Brazil where playing with DNA is more accepted. For example, in 2000, Sir William Castell, CEO of a British biotech company, announced he was considering employing 1000 researchers in China instead of Britain. This is reflected in the $100 million China invests every year just on biotech crops.
As such, if a ban on genetic engineering is desired, it would have to be implemented worldwide to completely halt the practice. This is where international policy comes in. There have been a few international agreements concerning genetically engineered products.
In January 2000, delegates from 120 nations approved an international agreement regulating the trade of genetically engineered products. Known as the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, the treaty aims at protecting the environment from living modified organisms (LMOs). Under the Cartagena Protocol, exporting countries would have to gain the approval of importing countries before shipping LMO’s. Also, the treaty requires that shipments of genetically modified products be indicated to inform consumers.
The treaty was ratified and became effective in September 2003. There are currently 102 national parties participated the Protocol, which does not include the United States.
International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology ( ICGEB)
The ICGEB is part of the United Nations system. It was created in 1983 in order to “promote international cooperation in developing and applying peaceful uses of genetic engineering and biotechnology, in particular for developing countries,” according to its Statutes. It funds programs and services to support the biotech research capability of its Member states, which include mostly developing countries.
Human Genome Project
In April 2003, two years ahead of schedule, the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium lead by the United States proclaimed that it had completed the sequencing of the human genome. The project involved determining the exact order of DNA’s four chemical bases along human chromosomes. Considering that there are 3 billion bases to sequence, this was quite an undertaking. Countries involved included the U.S., Britain, China, France, Germany, and Japan. The project formally began in October 1990.
Using this new information, advancements in the following areas can be made faster:
- Molecular medicine – including gene therapy
- Industry – including new energy sources
- Testing – assessment of genetic disorders
- Human History – study evolution of human race
- DNA Forensics – useful in the criminal justice system
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- International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. Statutes of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. 30 July 2004 <http://www.icgeb.trieste.it/GENERAL/Statutes_ICGEB.pdf>.
- “International Trade: Biotech Safety Pact Reached.” World News Digest 3 Feb. 2000. Facts On File World News Digest @ FACTS.com. Facts On File News Services. Plainsboro Public Lib., Plainsboro, NJ. 30 July 2004 <http://www.2facts.com/>.
- Lau, Edie. “China Spending $100 Million Annually on Biotech Crops, Study Finds.” Sacramento Bee 25 Jan. 2002. InfoTrac Custom Newspapers. Gale Group Databases. 30 July 2004 <http://infotrac.galegroup.com/>.
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- United Nations. Environment Programme. Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety Takes Effect. 30 July 2004 <http://www.biodiv.org/doc/press/presskits/bs/pr‑01‑en