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* Your ConquerHSC Notes are consistently being revised throughout the 2019 HSC Year to ensure quality!

Week 8 Content

Overview of Week 8’s Inquiry Question – Does artificial manipulation of DNA have the potential to change populations forever?

Learning Objective #1 – Investigate the uses and advantages of current genetic technologies that induce genetic change.

Learning Objective #2 – Compare the processes and outcomes of reproductive technologies, including:

  • Artificial insemination
  • Artificial pollination

Learning Objective #3 – Investigate and assess the effectiveness of cloning, including:

  • Whole organism cloning
  • Gene cloning

Learning Objective #4 – Describe techniques and applications used in recombinant DNA technology, for example:

  • The development of transgenic organisms in agricultural and medical applications.

Learning Objective #5 – Evaluate the benefits of using genetic technologies in agricultural, medical and industrial applications.

Learning Objective #6 – Evaluate the effect on biodiversity of using biotechnology in agriculture.

Learning Objective #7 – Interpret a range of secondary sources to assess the influence of social, economic and cultural contexts on a range of biotechnologies. 

NEW HSC Biology Syllabus Video – Genetic Technologies

Week 8 Homework Questions

Week 8 Curveball Questions

Solutions to Week 8 Questions

Overview of Week 8's Inquiry Question

Welcome back to Week 8 of your HSC Biology Syllabus Notes!

In this week’s notes, we will elaborate on previous week’s notes in the areas of how genetic technology is able to create and influence biodiversity and genetic variation. 

However, we will also elaborate on the reproductive technologies which we have touched on in Module 5. That is, artificial insemination, artificial pollination and cloning.

  • NOTE: Transgenic species is NOT a reproductive technology by itself.

Moreover, we will explore the area of industrial biotechnology in terms of what it involves, its present benefits and futures benefits. 

Lastly, we will examine how social, economic and cultural contexts can hinder or accelerate the development and use of biotechnologies.

Learning Objective #1 - Investigate the uses and advantages of current genetic technologies that induce genetic change

There are many different genetic technologies that can be used in different fields of biotechnology (medical, agriculture, aquatic, etc as we have mentioned in last week’s notes).

Some new examples of genetic technologies that you can provide in the HSC Biology Course that induce genetic change include the following:

  • Hybridisation
  • Transgenesis (production of transgenic species that we have talked about in last week’s notes)
We will have a detail examination of the processes of hybridisation and transgenesis processes, their uses as well as their advantages. 

Hybridisation

The purpose of hybridisation, which involves the interbreeding of two different strains of plant or animal, is to produce hybrid offsprings that has favourable characteristics of parents. 

  • Strains are different groups of organisms or, genetic variants, within a species group.

For instance, hybrid sheep derived from a Australian merino sheep and a Border Leicester ram is able to produce excellent meat as well as wool. However, the Merino sheeps themselves are good wool growers but poor meat producers. Vice versa, boarder leicester rams are poor wool growers but good meat producers. The mating of the two parent species allows the hybrid sheep offspring to be both excellent meat and wool producer.

Do note that there is a comprise in the wool quality in the hybrid sheep which is lower in quality than merino sheeps. 

Obviously, like most genetic technologies except for cloning, hybridisation can be used to increase genetic variation if performed carefully. This is because hybridisation are be used to mate two different strains of organisms that may be genetically isolated such as through a physical barrier in nature. In this situation, the genetic variation of a population can be increased through assisted hybridisation.

Another example of hybridisation is between noble cane and wild cane. Noble cane has the capacity to produce large quantities of sucrose although being prone to disease than wild sugar canes. Comparatively, wild sugar canes are more resistant to diseases. 

Through nobilisation, which is a term used to refer to the hybridisation between noble and wild sugar canes strains, the hybrid noble cane has the genes that allow it to be more tolerate against diseases while producing high concentration of sugar. 

Transgenesis

The process of producing a transgenic species starts with the identification of the desired gene to be inserted into an organism. Once the desired gene is identified, FISH (fluorescence in situ hybridisation) technology is used to locate the desired gene in the organism’s DNA for extraction. 

The extraction process involves using a gene splicing technique in recombinant DNA technology. In the gene splicing technique, the same restriction enzyme is used to cut the DNA sequence in the organism containing the desired gene and a plasmid DNA molecule in order to transfer DNA of one species to another. 

The use of the same restriction enzymes allow the creation of sticky ends in which complementary base pairing between the plasmid and cut out gene can be performed. Moreover, an enzyme called ligase is used to repair and consolidate the cut out gene so that it combines with the plasmid DNA. 

  • Note that polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is often used to make multiple copies of the gene which is inserted into each plasmids to allow larger quantities of the gene to be produced.

By adding heat to a solution containing the modified plasmid and E coli bacteria, the bacteria will absorb the plasmid into its DNA (process known as transformation) whereby the plasmid can be copied as the bacteria reproduces in a nutrition-rich environment with antibiotics. 

  • Note that once the bacteria absorbs the plasmid containing gene another species, it is a transgenic species.
  • Note that the plasmids have naturally genes for antibiotic resistance. Since the nutritional environment in which the bacteria is cultured contains antibiotics, any bacteria that does not absorb the plasmid containing antibiotic resistant gene will be killed. Thus by adding antibiotics in the culture environment, it ensures all surviving (old and new) bacteria carry the desired gene.

This allows multiple copies of the recombinant DNA to be produced by the bacteria (sometimes yeast is used instead of bacteria). This was how insulin was mass produced to save many lives as we have discussed in previous week’s notes. 

The recombinant DNA can be inserted into a host species to convert it into a transgenic species. 

Learning Objective #2 - Compare the processes and outcomes of reproductive technologies, including:

-Artificial insemination

- Artificial pollination

We have already talked about artificial insemination and pollination in Module 5. 

As artificial insemination and artificial pollination are reproductive technologies for selective breeding, it signifies that an offspring is produced as an outcome which we know is true as explored in Module 5.

Let’s explore both processes and their outcomes now.

Artificial Insemination Process

Artificial insemination is a method in which semen with male gametes (sperms) is collected and injected into a female organism’s uterus or womb (typically of the same species) at the appropriate time. 

  • Semen can be collected using an artificial vagina (safest way for organism) or through using electro-stimulation. 
  • Glycerol can be added to the semen to prevent any water from freezing and thus destroying the sperm gametes. This is because glycerol can remove water. Semen is then stored straws which are submerged in liquid nitrogen to prevent structural and chemical decay of the male gametes over time. 
  • After submerging the semen straws in warm water which thaws the contained semen, the semen can be transferred to a sterilised artificial insemination gun.  
  • The gun is inserted into the female organism’s cervix or uterus through the rectum. 

The outcomes of artificial insemination (as discussed in Module 5): 

As artificial insemination is a type of selective breeding technology, it can be used to produce an offspring that is genetically dissimilar with both of its parents’ favourable characteristics. 

Like all selective breeding technology, if artificial insemination is performed at a large scale by using the same two parent organisms repeatedly, the offsprings of the next generation would be low biodiversity. Thus, the genetic variation of the species population would decrease. Hence, if farmers decide to use perform artificial insemination at a large scale using the same two parents genetically dissimilar, an unfavourable change in environmental selection pressure can result in the death of many offsprings and mass loss to the farmers. 

Of course, if artificial insemination is performed in a controlled manner in preference for increasing genetic variation, the biodiversity of the new generation of offsprings would increase. This is because new offsprings that is genetically dissimilar to parents can be created using artificial insemination due to creation of new allele combination as a result crossing over. Furthermore, these two genetically dissimilar parents may be genetically isolated at the time, such as separated by a physical barrier like an ocean, at which artificial insemination is performed. This means artificial insemination allows the generation of new combinations of alleles that would otherwise not be possible by natural means.

  • Note that if the parent organisms (especially the male which fertilises many females) are not properly tested for sex-linked diseases, mass artificial insemination can provide a means through which diseases can be rapidly spread throughout the population. 
  • As artificial insemination requires special equipment and well-trained personnels to execute the techniques used in artificial insemination, it can be expensive.
  • Through artificial insemination, Mzuri is the first gorilla was created using such technology. 

Artificial Pollination

Artificial pollination involves the manual transfer of pollens into stigma of another plant to combine with the egg cell (ovule) of the plant. This technique was performed by Gregor Mendel as we have mentioned in Module 5. 

There are two types of artificial pollination being cross pollination and self-pollination which we have discussed in Module 5. 

Outcomes of artificial pollination (as discussed in Module 5):

As artificial pollination is a type of selective breeding technology, it can be used to produce plant offsprings with favourable characteristics of both parents in cross pollination. In such case, the plant would be genetically different from both parents due to new allele combination being created meaning that genetic variation of the plant species would increase. 

Compared to cross-pollination, self pollination causes the resulting flower offspring (after seed germination) to have far less genetic variation than their parents in most cases compared to cross pollination. This is because the resulting flower is only produced from only one parent plant rather than two plants in cross pollination. As mentioned in Module 5, if the parent in self-pollination is heterozygous for some genes, the resulting flower may have probabilities of being genetically different to their parents for those genes.

Like all selective breeding technology, if artificial pollination is performed at a large scale by using the same two parent plants repeatedly, the offsprings of the next generation would be lower in biodiversity. Thus, the genetic variation of the species population would decrease. Hence, if farmers decide to use perform artificial pollination at a large scale using the same two genetically dissimilar parents, an unfavourable change in environmental selection pressure can result in the death of many plants and mass loss to the farmers. 

Of course, if artificial pollination is performed in a controlled manner in preference for increasing genetic variation, the biodiversity of the new generation of offsprings would increase due to the creation of new allele combination as a result of crossing over. Furthermore, these two genetically dissimilar parents may be genetically isolated at the time, such as separated by a physical barrier like an ocean, at which artificial pollination is performed. This means artificial pollination can allow the generation of new combinations of alleles that would otherwise not be possible by natural means.

  • Note that if the parent plants (especially the male plant which crosses with many female plants) are not tested for the presence of disease, mass artificial pollination can provide a means through which disease can be rapidly spread throughout the population.

Learning Objective #3 - Investigate and assess the effectiveness of cloning, including:

- Whole organism cloning

- Gene cloning

Moving onto another form of genetic technology, these are whole organism cloning and gene cloning. 

Here, we will explore what each of these entail in terms of understanding their process and effectiveness. 

Now, here, we can further our definition of cloning that we have learnt in Module 5 which was “cloning is a type of asexual reproduction used to create offsprings that are genetically identical to the parent”. This is because as we will learn in this learning objective, we can produce clones of an entire organism or its genes (sequences of DNA).

Therefore, our revised definition of cloning can be defined as the process of asexually producing genetically identical replicas of an organism OR a molecule that the organism is comprised of (e.g. DNA).

Whole organism cloning

One common method used in cloning organisms is called somatic cell nuclear transfer. 

In this process, an empty egg cell, with haploid nucleus destroyed using UV radiation and removed, is obtained from a female organism, a process known as enucleation. Following this, the somatic cell containing the genome of the (different) organism which scientists wants to clone is fused with the empty egg cell. 

The somatic cell containing the genome (also known as donor cell) is injected into the empty egg cell.

This allows the egg cell to have a diploid number of chromosome and genetically identical to the sheep that contributed the somatic cell containing its genome. 

An electric shock is used to stimulate cell division of the egg cell such that it develops into an embryo.

The embryo is then implanted into a surrogate or foster mother organism (3rd organism) whereby the surrogate mother will give birth to the offspring that is genetically identical to the sheep that donated the somatic cell containing DNA. 

Advantages or effectiveness of cloning:

While selective breeding techniques such as hybridisation, artificial insemination and artificial pollination can produce offsprings with favourable characteristics from parents, cloning is used to produce offsprings that are genetically identical to organisms with favourable characteristics. 

Cloning can allow the replication of organisms that have favourable characteristics at a large scale. This could provide higher yield of products (lowering cost to consumers) and higher quality of products obtained.

  • For example, merino sheeps can be cloned as they produce high quality wool, prized cow that make better quality milk, prized pigs that can produce better quality meat, etc.

Disadvantages or limitations of cloning:

  • Cloning produces offsprings that are genetically identical to the organism that donated the somatic cell with DNA. This means that cloning lowers the genetic diversity and variation of the species’s population. If cloning is performed on a mass scale, it could lead to mass decline in species population and also major loss to farmers that have many clones animals. 
  • The fact that clone have DNA of the somatic cell of another organism, any mutation that may occur in the DNA contained in the original somatic cell is transferred into the cloned offspring. Therefore, if somatic mutation could result in a disease or cancer, the cloned offspring would be equally affected. 
  • There are many ethical issues surrounding producing clones such as religious issues concerning that humans should not interrupt with evolution by playing as/with god, also case studies involving clones that die earlier than expected.
  • Cloning is also expensive so there is an economic limitation on its effectiveness (cost effectiveness).
 
  • Dolly the Sheep was the first sheep was succesfully produced using cloning through somatic cell nuclear transfer.
  • Prometea was the first horse that was produced via cloning. 

Gene cloning

We have already talked about how genes can be cloned or replicated through using various techniques in recombinant DNA technology we mentioned in learning objective #1 in this week’s notes. This included:

  • Gene splicing: Using same restriction enzyme to cut desired gene contained within an organism’s DNA and a plasmid. 
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction: Placing the DNA sequence of the desired gene into a thermal cycler machine to make multiple copies of the gene which can be inserted each plasmid.
  • DNA vector technique (also called transformation): Using a plasmid to transfer the gene into a bacteria to replicate the gene.

However, we are not done with the learning objective yet. We should also understand the purpose of gene cloning as it is examinable in HSC Biology exams. 

Gene cloning allows the nucleotide of a sequence can be determined as we have learnt in Module 5 in Sanger’s Method. From this, the structure & function of the protein or RNA in which the gene specifies can be analysed. 

Moreover, gene cloning is essential in the identification of the exact nucleotide sequence (DNA sequencing process) which allows scientists to determine whether there is any SNPs or mutation that is responsible for a disease. For instance, we have explored in Module 5 – Inquiry Question #5 notes, scientists part of the IGAP project have identified 20 possible genes associated to late stage Alzheimer’s Disease. By identifying the exact nucleotide sequence of these 20 genes in people affected by late stage Alzheimer’s Disease, any SNP or mutation this genes could be identified and be analysed as possible causes of Alzheimer’s Disease. 

An example of the effectiveness of DNA sequencing was mentioned in Module 5 notes. For example:

  • Scientists successfully establishing the evolutionary relationship that crocodile are in fact more closely related to birds than reptiles.

Lastly, as we have mentioned in last week’s notes, recombinant DNA technology can allow the cloning of genes through gene splicing and DNA vector techniques to create a modified plasmids. Such modified plasmids containing the desired gene(s) can be insert into bacteria for gene cloning. We explored examples of how gene cloning is effective for large scale insulin production that saved many lives of people suffering from diabetes. Also, gene cloning also effective in allowing the large-scale production of Bt genes for Bt crops, Beta carotene for Golden Rice, antifreeze gene for cold strawberries, growth hormone for producing AquaAdvantage Salmon which help address problems such as increasing food demand due to growing world population and nutritional deficiency problems. 

Disadvantages or limitations of gene cloning:

  • The desired gene must be identified before it can be cloned. Often this means that the protein that is desired must be found using other means (e.g. through aquaculture).
  • The desired gene to be extracted using restriction enzyme must first be located in the genome using other techniques such as FISH which we have mentioned in learning objective #1 of this week’s notes.
  • As discussed in Module 5, there are many ethical issues surrounding transgenic species in regards to potential health issues (e.g. possible transfer of allergens), religious issues (e.g. playing as/with god to create new species), the issue concerning the equity of different species surviving due to potential reduction in biodiversity, etc. 

Learning Objective #4 - Describe techniques and applications used in recombinant DNA technology, for example:

- The development of transgenic organisms in agricultural and medical applications

We have already talked about the process of how recombinant DNA technology works in Learning Objective #1 of this week’s notes. Therefore, we will not go over it again. 

Rather we will now move on to explore the applications of recombinant DNA technology. 

We will explore three techniques used in recombinant DNA technology, all of which we have examined already. 

Recombinant DNA technology used in gene splicing to produce drugs in biotechnology

Gene splicing is a technique used in recombinant DNA technology that involves using same restriction enzyme to cut a desired gene and a plasmid. The gene is then inserted into an open (cut) plasmid and strengthened using ligase enzyme. 

Gene splicing therefore is a technique that set up the bacteria so that it contain the desired gene which is replicated as the bacteria undergo binary fission. 

Thus, through gene splicing technique, recombinant DNA technology is able to produce large quantities of genes specifying for substances such as antibiotics, insulin and many other drugs and hormones. This effectively increases the availability and lowers the cost of drugs for patients globally. 

You can also talk about how gene splicing technique allows recombinant DNA technology to insert genes into plasmids to replicate the desirable genes used in agriculture such as in producing Bt crops. The advantages of Bt crops have been discussed in last week’s notes so you can revisit it for revision. 

Recombinant DNA technology used in PCR in medical biotechnology, forensic science and paternity testing

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) plays a critical role in producing many roles such as in DNA fingerprinting used in paternity testing as well as in forensic science to match a sample DNA found in crime scene to the individual which the DNA belongs. We have already talked about how DNA fingerprinting works by comparing DNA bands in paternity testing and forensic science in Module 5. 

Furthermore, polymerase chain reaction also has role in DNA sequencing used in establishing evolutionary relatedness between organisms through identifying exact nucleotide sequences. For instance, through DNA sequencing, it has been established that crocodiles share a more recent ancestor (thus more closely related) with birds than with reptiles as we have discussed in Module 5. 

Recombinant DNA technology used in DNA vectors and microinjection to insert desired gene(s) into nuclear DNA to produce transgenic species

The use of DNA vectors such as plasmids extracted from bacteria allows DNA, carrying the desired gene(s) inserted via gene splicing technique, to be replicated. This technique of using DNA vectors in recombinant DNA technology allows the bacteria to absorb the plasmid and produce many copies of the desired gene(s). 

The subsequent stage involves one of many recombinant DNA techniques to transfer the modified plasmids containing the desired gene into a host organism such that it becomes a transgenic species. For example, microinjection is a technique used in recombinant DNA technology to insert the modified plasmid into the host organism.

Transgenic species produced in agricultural biotechnology has already been discussed last week – Bt crops, golden rice, etc.

Transgenic species produced in medical biotechnology has also been discussed last week. This includes using transgenic rabbits by inserting a sequence of DNA containing a gene in jellyfish that has green fluorescent property alongside other genes to examine whether the desired genes are successfully expressed. 

Another examples involves the production of insulin which we have also talked about in last week’s notes. The insulin gene obtained from humans, after PCR, is placed into a DNA vector (plasmids) which is absorbed and replicated using bacteria. The resulting modified plasmids are inserted into bacteria (transgenic species) whereby the large bacteria colonies can produce the insulin at scale.

Another example includes the use of DNA recombinant technology to insert a gene that specifies for a protein that can help clot blood which is useful for patients who have haemophilia. Many copies of this gene, after PCR, is placed into DNA vectors (plasmid) which are absorbed and replicated using bacteria (transgenic species). The resulting modified plasmids are inserted into a sheep such that it produces milk whereby the blood clotting factor can be extracted. 

Learning Objective #5 - Evaluate the benefits of using genetic technologies in agricultural, medical and industrial applications

We have already mentioned both the present and future benefits of agricultural and medical biotechnology in the previous week’s notes (Module 6 – Inquiry Question #2).

So, we will only talk about the present and future benefits of industrial biotechnology below.

Present benefits of industrial biotechnology

Currently the field of industrial biotechnology involves using biotechnological tools to produce substances at a large scale used in industries or society. These can include various plastics polymers, enzymes, fuels, chemicals, etc.

The present benefits of industrial technology lies in innovating or modifying existing industrial processes to lower the cost of production (e.g. for the products we have listed above) by increasing efficiency as well as to reduce the environmental impacts due industrial processes. 

We will move on to explore some examples of benefits now.

Through the use of recombinant DNA technology, enzymes can be quickly produced at a large scale (thus cheaper cost) to produce antibiotics, plasminogen activators, and wines with enhanced smell & taste

  • Antibiotics have the treat bacterial infections by hindering their ability to perform metabolic processes, DNA replication processes, protein synthesis and preventing bacteria from making a cell wall. Due to this, antibiotics is able either prevent the growth of bacteria (which allows time for our white blood cells to destroy the bacteria) or kill the bacteria directly. 
  • Plasminogen activators can help remove blood clot by breaking the fibrin polymer layers. Blood clots formed in the deep veins are dangerous as a section can break loose be transported to the lungs which can result in organ damage. 
  • Cold-tolerant enzymes are able to be produced at an industrial scale using recombinant DNA technology to for the brewing of wine. By using cold-tolerant enzymes, the fermentation of wine can occur in lower temperatures which lowers the chances of contamination thereby reducing the amount of sulfur dioxide required to be added into the manufacture process as a preservative. As sulfur dioxide produces a strong, undesirable aroma that covers the smell and flavour of the wine, the reduction of sulfur dioxide improves the smell and taste of the wine. Furthermore, some of the sulfur dioxide can dissolve in the wine to produce sulfite ions which cause skin rashes. Therefore, by lowering the content of sulfur dioxide in the wine production process, there is also health benefits for wine consumers.

Apart from enzymes, the improved fermentation of glucose derived from sugar canes using immobilised cell reactors is also biotechnology that involves the use of microbes to produce ethanol, a biofuel used in modern motor vehicles. Through using immobilised cell techniques, such as binding to carrier technique, in an immobilised cell reactor, the enzymes (produced by yeast) are held in place allowing a higher yield of ethanol. Furthermore, the purity of ethanol would be higher due to lower chance of contamination. All of these would lower the cost of production of ethanol which is an economic benefit for society in moving forward to a renewable energy source (e.g. using ethanol) rather than burning fossil fuels. This would therefore yield the benefits of reducing environmental pollution up to 59% than using gasoline as ethanol combusts more readily and thus cleanly than traditional octane (non-renewable fossil fuel). As a result, less carbon monoxide would be secretes into the environment which is toxic to living organisms by reducing oxygen uptake. 

Future benefits of industrial biotechnology

With increasing world population requiring a greater demand in energy (e.g. electricity requirements), the non-renewable nature of fossil fuels currently used to generate energy needs will not be sustainable in the future. 

The use of biotechnology to generate new sources of renewable energy would be required to sustain and advance the current state of living in everyday life. 

The current sources of renewable energy requires large quantity of arable land to grow the crops to produce biofuel such as obtaining glucose which is then fermentation to produce ethanol. The limitations of this is that such use of land would restrict the capacity to grow food (e.g. tomatos, potatoes, etc) to meet the needs of the growing world population. 

A possible solution to this is through the use of photobioreactors in producing biodisel from microalgae at a large scale. Microalgae provides many advantages over current plants that are currently used to produce biofuel (such as sugar cane to produce ethanol). This includes the fact that algae does not require to be grown on agricultural land, it grows during any time of the year as it can sustain harsh ambient conditions, reducing water and pesticides required (lowering cost) and higher yield per unit area (from 10 to 100 times more than conventional biofuels such as ethanol).

The limitations currently is that the cultivation cost of microalgae is greater than plants such as sugar cane in producing biofuel. Furthermore, there will be problem with producing microalgae arises when the availability of sunlight varies.

Perhaps, with recombinant DNA technology, a gene can be identified and inserted into microalgae that enhances its yield production during low sunlight conditions. 

Learning Objective #6 - Evaluate the effect on biodiversity of using biotechnology in agriculture

In last week’s notes we have already explored about how agricultural biotechnology can affect biodiversity. 

Learning Objective #7 - Interpret a range of secondary sources to assess the influence of social, economic and cultural contexts on a range of biotechnologies

Influence of social context on biotechnology

Society influence the field of biotechnology in many ways.

It is important to note that there health disparities between people residing in different countries due to the subjection to different environmental selection pressures as well as difference in ethic and racial groups.

Due to this, it is common to see that a disease are more common in some countries compared to others. 

For example, Australia has one of the highest reported cases of melanoma (type of skin cancer) in the world, up to twice the amount compared to North America countries. 

The reasons contributing towards melanoma are said to be the skin colour of Australian the location of Australia being close to the equator where the ozone layer is thiner thus allowing more UV radiation to pass through. We have already talked about how UV radiation can lead to cancer in Module 6 – Inquiry Question #6 by changing the DNA sequence of oncogenes and tumour suppressor genes, resulting in abnormal growth of unspecialised (cancer) cells. 

From this, it is not surprisingly how the development of the melanoma vaccine to prevent and control the development of melanoma has much higher priority in Australia compared to countries where there is less exposure to UV radiation or people residing in countries with darker skin tone as there is more melanin pigment to protect against UV radiation.

Another case study involves Ebola. This is very common in countries in the west Africa compared to the rest of the world. There are many societal factors or contexts that contribute towards the high incidence of the Ebola disease experienced by Africans in west Africa. 

Below are some:

  • The wide practice of the relatives of the dead bathing with the dead’s body is a traditional funeral customs in West African societies. It has been approximately that up to eighty percent of Ebola cases in West Africa countries are directly associated to such funeral practices. 
  • Initially, there are insufficient amount of doctors located in West Africa countries. According to the world health organisation, there is a ratio of one to one hundred thousand citizens.
  • The medical staff also had limited knowledge on how to control Ebola hence there were no isolation ward that were in place for affected patients when Ebola initially broke out. 
 

For such reasons, the high incidence of Ebola in western Africa countries prompt the need to test and produce an effective Ebola vaccine in the medical biotechnology field to control the spread of Ebola throughout the West African countries and, ultimately, the world. 

As the majority of the societies in the world do not have Ebola diseases, there is less influence by those unaffected societies on prompting the invention of an Ebola vaccine in the medical biotechnology field.

Influence of economic context on a range of biotechnologies

There are many economic considerations towards how economics may impact the field of biotechnology.

Depending on the richness of biodiversity a country may have, the degree in which economic contexts have influence on biotechnologies will differ. 

For example, Philippines is considered one of the 18 countries in the world with richest (highest) biodiversity. 

In 2016, pharmaceutical products derived from Philippine’s fauna and flora residing in rainforests exceeds $3.5 billion USD annually. It is a country with the third largest pharmaceutical market in the world. Furthermore, aquatic organisms sold from Philippines accounts for over $550 billion USD dollars annually.

Due to this, the Philippines is the first south eastern asian countries to regulate the risk in which biotechnology brings as it can reduce the rich biodiversity in the country. 

In 2015, the supreme court of Philippines banned the import of millions genetically modified soybeans in fear of the threat to the biodiversity of the country (later approved after rigorous risk assessment). As of currently, there is a long timeframe of 65 months for a genetically modified (GM) product to be approved for cultivation in Philippines. 

Comparing countries with rich biodiversity such as Philippines to countries with less biodiversity, the less strict approval process of GM products is apparent as there is less economic effect. Instead, the lower production cost crops of GM products can help increase the countries’ revenue. 

Another economic reason that may delay the introduction genetically modified products into the market can be the royalties that farmers would need to pay for pharmaceutical companies that hold the patents for the technology in producing the GM product. Due to such reasons, small farmers with limited land to grow crops in developing companies such as Philippines are strongly against GM product as they will not make a high profit. This is because the significant portion of cost savings by spending less on pesticides due to the pesticide-resistant nature of GM crops will be given as royalties paid to the companies holding the patent.

This problem is furthered when large companies with more fertile land are able to capitalise on the increased yield, less pesticide and water requirement of GM crops. 

As a result, this would allow large companies to further increase their competitive advantage against smaller scale farmers by selling GM products to consumers at a lower price. 

Another reason contributing to the hinderance of GM product launches is the uncertainty behind whether or not the large scale agricultural companies are using the technology to increase nutritional value, global food availability and reduce costs to consumers. This is because there have views from society and small scale farmers regarding high commercial interests that corporations have in place and disregarding the potential risks (e.g. any allergens present) associated with GM products.

Due to these economic concerns on both the side of government and small farmers, there is a hinderance to the global development, acceptance and usage of GM products. 

 

Influence of cultural context on a range of biotechnologies

Depending on the culture in which people belong or have experienced in the past, their views on biotechnology would differ. These unique cultural views on biotechnology can either be supportive, neutral or against the use of biotechnology. 

For example, the Hawaiians has Taro as a staple food which is also sacred in the Hawaiian culture. Over the last century, the species and genetic diversity of taro has greatly reduced due to taro leaf blight disease caused by a fungus. 

For such reasons, the use of agricultural biotechnology, specifically recombinant DNA technology, to insert genes from grapevines into traditional Hawaiian taro to produce disease-resistant GM taro. The problem is that Hawaiian people fear that GM taro would reduce the purity of the taro and alters the food’s identity. Also, they fear that GM would reduce the biodiversity of the Taro and, thus, remove their option to grow different variants of Taro.

As such biotechnology experiments were performed without informing the Hawaiian people, there has been months of protestation to the government on putting a halt experimenting with GM Hawaiian Taro. This was followed by the passing of a bill through the Senate of the Hawaiian government to put a moratorium (cease of activity) on the experimentation of GM Hawaiian Taro. It was noted in the bill that it serves to protect the food’s identity and purity as the Taro food is sacred to the Hawaiian culture. 

In some religions such as christianity, it is believed that god is the dictator of life and death. Therefore, the protest against drugs developed through medical biotechnology techniques that may be too expensive for purchase in developing countries should not be considered. Rather, the fact that biotechnologists are creating drugs to help cure diseases or disorders is suffice for their production, given that any associated uncertain risk of uptaking the drug is not excessively high. 

Week 8 Homework Questions (Essential for Band 5!)

Week 8 Homework Question #1: Explain how the use of agricultural biotechnology have resulted in modification of different populations’ genetic diversity. [5 mark]

Week 8 Homework Question #2: Account for how biotechnology is used in different cultures.  [4 marks]

Week 8 Homework Question #3: Explain how economics influence the use of biotechnology. [4 marks]

Week 8 Homework Question #4: Account for how society influences the use of biotechnology. [4 marks]

Week 8 Homework Question #5: Evaluate the implications associated with the development transgenic species. [7 marks]

Week 8 Homework Question #6: Explain the techniques used in medical biotechnology and their implications. [7 marks]

Week 8 Homework Question #7: Explain the differences between gene cloning and whole organism cloning. [4 marks]

Week 8 Curveball Questions (Moving from Band 5 to Band 6!)

Week 8 Curveball Question #1: Explain the techniques used in transgenesis. [6 marks]

Week 8 Curveball Question #2: Evaluate gene cloning and whole organism cloning in terms of the technologies’ effectiveness. [8 marks]

Week 8 Curveball Question #3: Evaluate the use of different genetic technologies used in biotechnology and their implications on society. [7 marks]

Week 8 Extension Questions (Extra HSC-Style Homework Questions)

Coming Soon!

Solutions to Week 8 Questions

Coming Soon!

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