ABSTRACT

Genetic engineering opens up the possibility of creating new forms of life, tailored to meet specific human needs. This chapter examines interactions and the consequences for the progress of the biotechnology industry, examining successively, the nature of new biotechnology developments, their potential social and environmental impacts, the assessment of the risks involved and the popular response. Developments in plant breeding are among some of the most dramatic and revolutionary in the new biotechnology armoury. Biotechnology is, in addition, opening up novel uses for agricultural products, making feasible the industrial production of traditionally agricultural commodities, and introducing new methods of producing fine and commodity chemicals in agricultural systems. Several potential direct risks arising from the release of GMOs have been identified to date and proposals to ensure the safety of new products in field tests have been put forward in recent reports from US National Research Council, the UK Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, and a group of eminent US ecologists.