Week 6_Biotechnology by Joseph Duy Nguyen

The rapid development of biotechnology has led to many controversies regarding its ethical value. Most of these controversies revolve around the issue of the biological test medium. Biological specimens are being used by biotechnology companies as a research medium to further develop methods of altering a living organism’s genetic or phenotypic make-up. Transgenic technology is perhaps the most well-known biotech techniques to alter an organism genome. By inserting certain foreign genes into an organism’s genome, novel traits will appear on the species. This has allowed researchers to change how an organism appears and its function, which was never fully possible in the past. With this, animal usage for experimentation has increased. Research on animals has been a controversial subject for decades but biotechnology has brought it to a much larger scale.

A much debated area of biotechnology right now has to deal with art. Bioart, coined by Eduardo Kac, is a new field  that explores art through the usage of biological tissues. For these artists, biotechnology is no longer an area of study but a tool to create an artwork. This tool has been used by artists to generate fluorescent animals, DNA as a medium, animals with extra body parts, and many more. These artists are trying to incorporate life into their artwork instead of just using non-living mediums.

Rabbits inserted with RFP-producing genes.

Rabbits inserted with RFP-producing genes.

Pig wings being cultured in a bioreactor.

Pig wings being cultured in a bioreactor.

Using animals as experimental test subjects for science was somewhat OK before as it has to do with  improving human’s living conditions or the environments. The ends somehow justify the means for some people. However, bioart has, in my opinion, clearly violated human ethical values. For the purpose of entertaining others with one’s creation, artists has come to the point of using a novel medium that was unethical even in scientific research. There is no justifiable reason for the importance of bioart as a mean of expressing one’s creativity . It is just the selfish act by people for their pleasure . Humans are only one of millions of other species that inhabit this Earth. Without other species, humans would not be able to continue to live on Earth. Therefore, humans should respect other living beings too.There is no respect for other species’ right in bioart. The glowing transgenic rabbit created by Eduardo Kac is a proof of human negligence of other species’ rights. He has inserted a foreign gene into another species just on the mere whim of creating a piece of artwork to be enjoyed by others. He has idea of the consequences of his alteration of the rabbit genome. Currently, there is no evidence as to whether the technology is safe or unsafe. This lack of knowledge should be enough to prevent the technology being used on the rabbit. I think this is a very inconsiderate and immoral act by these bioart artists. Being able to do something doesn’t necessarily means it is ethical to do it.

I think one of the major reasons behind why  humans continue to abuse other species is because  many people still believe in the cultural ideology of humans being at the pinnacle of creation. Only by dispelling this belief can the amount of animal abuse committed by human decrease or cease to exist.

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