Animal Biotechnology and Advantages and Applications


During biotechnology has been used to develop a range of useful types of animal. These animals have made huge contributions to basic research and biomedicine and are beginning to enter the agricultural production system. This development raises a number of ethical questions. The central issue, as is so often the case, is about the boundaries of ethical acceptability. Most people would readily agree that there is a difference between what humans can do and what they ought to do. Equally, most people would happily acknowledge that it is good to do the morally right thing. However, the harmony usually ends there, because although it is easy to agree that a good thing should be promoted, it is often hard to reach consensus on what that good thing is, how it can be promoted, and where to draw the line between what is acceptable and what is not. As soon as we begin discussing these questions, whether in private or in public, we are engaging in ethical discussion in which we seek to establish a substantial understanding of the concepts of good and right that can guide our choices when we are faced with opportunities whose acceptability appears uncertain.

Animal biotechnology is used primarily for two purposes: to produce animals that can be employed in basic biological research into biological development and function, and to produce disease models that mimic human diseases and can therefore be utilised both in the study of disease (such as Parkinson’s, cancer, cystic fibrosis, etc.) and to test new drugs. Increasingly, since the early 1990s, researchers have sought to develop animals with special traits making them useful within pharmaceutical production (bioreactors) and to create production animals with traits offering improved production, better animal health and/or reduced environmental impact. None of these applications has reached the market yet, but reports indicate that the first pharmaceuticals based on human proteins produced in animals are to be released some observers expect the first cloned animals to reach the agricultural production system in a few years; others anticipate that genetically modified animals will also enter the system within the foreseeable future.

Animal biotechnology can be defined in a number of ways. Which definition is used is of some importance, because the definition determines what should be considered a biotechnological novelty and what should be considered an established practice. Thus some people believe that only the new possibilities with genetic engineering and cloning should be categorised as animal biotechnology, while others wish to include well-established breeding technologies such as artificial insemination and even some older breeding practices From an argumentative viewpoint, there are various reasons for including as much, or as little, as possible under the heading animal biotechnology, but we shall not discuss the merits of the contrasting definitions here. The more the new technologies can be seen as a natural extension of well-established practices the more it can be argued that there is nothing new under the sun and that, for example, regulation can be based on existing regulation and that the ethical concerns are no different from those arising from already established.

Best Regards,
Nicola B
Editorial Manager
Journal of Biochemistry & Biotechnology