Science and Values - October 28.pdf

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History and Philosophy of Science and Technology
Paul Thompson

HPS: Science and Values Genetic Modification in Agriculture Facts about the environmental impacts of global agriculture (World Wildlife Fund): • It uses 55% of habitable land (and it’s growing) - some of that food in the form of vegetable matter, some in the form of animal matter • 70% of the human use of fresh water is in agriculture (>60% wasted) - gets put onto fields for irrigation but drains faster than plants can use it - however has become a much more controlled process recently • 70-90% of farmers lose more carbon/year than put back • It has the highest industry use of chemicals • It has more environmental impact, including pollution, than any other human activity - air, water, and soil pollution • Climate change — It contributes 25-40% of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change • it is incredibly damaging to the environment Even if all factors remained constant: - This environmental impact is unsustainable - Many factors are not going to remain constant Two Crucial Factors: - Population growth - Increasing Affluence Graph: shows human population over time and the use of agriculture over time - first agricultural animal (likely goat) was about 10000 years ago - the population was expanding steadily at first, but increased a lot 5000-2000 years ago - the last two thousand years it has spiked United Nations Chart: - we have added 8 million people in the last ten years - that is a 13% growth - in richer countries, the population has plateaued - whereas in poor countries it has spiked - most of the growth will occur in Sub-Saharan Africa United States population graph: - about half a percent per year - birth - death + immigration is about 1 percent - so about half of population growth per year comes from immigration - *data comes from World Bank or CIA Comparison of Growth Rates: - US = about 0.5%, 1% with immigration - India = about 1.381%, 1.376% with emigration - Kenya = about 2.588%, same with immigration--the same amount of people are leaving as are coming - this means that they are doubling their population every 28 years Our Current Prosperity (including safe, affordable and available food) Is a Direct Result of Advances in Science and Technology: - “I believe that the single most important reason why prosperity spread, and why it continues to spread, is the transmission of technologies and the ideas underlying them. Even more important than having specific resources in the ground, such as coal, was the ability to use modern science-based ideas to organise production. The beauty of ideas is that they can be used over and over again, without ever being depleted. Economists call ideas non-rival in the sense that one person’s use of an idea does not diminish the ability of others to use it as well. This is why we can envision a world in which everyone achieves prosperity. The essence of the first industrial revolution was not the coal; it was how to use the coal. Even more generally, it was about how to use a new form of energy. The lessons of coal eventually became the basis for many other energy systems as well, from hydropower, oil and gas, and nuclear power to new forms of renewable energy such as wind and solar power converted to electricity.” (Jeffery Sachs (2005) The End of Poverty) - science and technology have given us what we have and will help us to sustain this - there is a lot of debate about whether technology can help us with this Increasing Affluence: - e.g. China - people now earning more than they have had before - will start to want more than they previously had - number of people putting pressure on agriculture rising, and increasing affluence causing these people to demand more Benefits, Harms and Risks (of Harms) - Technology brings benefits but seldom comes without harms or risks - Identify - Mitigate - Monitor - Assess Benefits to Harms Feinberg’s Schema • Value of a desired outcome • Probability of the desired outcome • Probability of harm in securing the outcome • Severity of the harm • Alternative methods of achieving the outcome [an example, in this context, is organic agriculture] Environmental Benefits Current Products 1. Crops that are resistant to a potent herbicide glyphosate (RoundupTM) - available since 1995 - Monsanto held patents on both the herbicides and the plants that were resistant to them - much less toxic than other products on the market • It requires fewer applications • Breaks down quickly in the environment • Zero Tillage • Increased yields (reduced need for land expansion; potential for contraction) • Products: soybean, canola, corn (maize) tobacco and cotton (RoundupTM Ready) - Canola (Canadian Oil Low Acid) - variant of rapeseed - Rapeseed is high in erucic acid (45% by weight). Canola is limited by government regulation to a maximum of 2% erucic acid by weight in the USAand 5% in the EU. Bred by Keith Downey and Baldur in the early 1970s - canola was a way of being able to use a common, high-yielding plant, but getting rid of its downsides Glyphosate-Resistant Tobacco - image shows moderate spray on both plants--the plant is healthy while the weeds are not - the ones that have had heavy spray--one is completely dead and the other is all right - the ones with no spray--are exactly the same Current Products 2. Pest resistant crops that require no pesticides (Bacillus thurigiensis (Bt) endotoxin expressing plants) - resistant to larvae stages of bugs, including butterflies, moths, and mosquitos - can buy the bacterium and spray it on plants - no need for specially engineering the plant - this has been around since the early 1950s - approved for use in organic farming • No application of herbicides - nothing going into the soil as a pesticide - no need to waste fuel going down to the field • Products: corn (maize) and cotton (tomatoes and potatoes have been engineered and approved but are not marketed) • image shows the result: one has been engineered to be resistant, and the other has not - the one that was not engineered was stripped clean by caterpillars - the other one is healthy Just Released Product 3. Drought-resistant crops (just recently approved last year) – Dramatically less water required (good both during drought and even when there isn't--less water required) – Field trials are completed – Regulatory approval in the US is near – Products: corn (maize), cotton, soybean, canola Dual-Track Process - drought-resistance was more challenging than other products - drought-resistance is a quantitative trait, whereas other resistances were straight- Mendelian traits - means that drought-resistance shows a normal distribution--not just have it or don't have it - almost always, quantitative traits are controlled by multiple genes (or one gene controlling many traits) - timing becomes important to how the developmental process unfolds - susceptible to what is going on during development - environmental plasticity--the environment can change how the trait is displayed - e.g. human height in richer countries has gone up due to nutritional advantages - so, there was a two-prong approach for drought-resistance - first needed standard techniques of hybridisation and selection - tried to get the most robust plants they could - then amplified this largely (biotechnology) - image showing drought-resistant corn - with the gene, the corn looks very good - without the gene, there are many kernels missing - drought-tolerance graph - the yellow range shows where the yield should be to make a profit - first year and fourth year it exceeded this by quite a bit - a 10% increase in yield is very significant New Trait Close to Market 4. Nitrogen efficient crops (field trials complete, but no approval yet) – Dramatically less nitrogen required – Field trials are completed – Regulatory approval in the US is near – Products: corn (maize), cotton, soybean, canola - producing higher yields with fewer inputs including nitrogen gives a significant increase in yield Given Inevitable Population Expansion and Increasing Affluence in the Most Populous Regions of the Planet:n - Abundant, Safe and Affordable Food Depends in Large Part on Increasing Yields - to continue the rate at which we consume, we must increase yields - there is no more land that we can use - e.g. all of Niagara region would be paved over were it not for one thing that changed in 1970: - vineyards Yield Benefits - the current traits have already increased yields - corn yield graph shows that until the 1930s there was no increase (this was just open- pollination; no special traits selected) - around 1930 there is an increase in slope, due to an understanding of genetics, more education on agriculture, more artificial fertilisers, and some synthetic pesticides - around the late 1950s they had discovered the structure of DNA, how it can replicate itself, how you can get gametes from DNA, and how DNAbecame the code for production of proteins - by 1960 protein chemists were already understanding ways of dealing with genetics at the molecular level - hybridising two hybrids - increased vigour, greater yields - slope even greater - in 1995 (began planting genetically modified corn) the slope increases even more - almost all of these molecular gains are genetics Yield Benefits It is worth noting that corn production in the United States: • Increased from 2 billion bushels in the early 1930s to 11.8 billion in 2006 • While the land area planted in corn decreased by 22% - This ties back to environmental advantages - less land used but more yield - slide showing that on Indian cotton fields, there is a yield increase Health Benefits 1. Healthier crop plants - resulting in reduction of some toxins in food, for example: - molds of the genus Fusarium, which infects corn along with many other plants - Aspergillus flavus - Gibberella zeae - the toxins are potent, for example: - synthesises trichothecenes (type B) - T-2 toxin - zearalenone (F-2 toxin) - vomitoxin Deoxynivalenol fumonisin -The European corn borer compromises the cob, and kernel integrity increasing the entry points for the mold spores - Bt corn reduces the activity of the corn borer, hence, reducing the compromised integrity of the cob and kernels. - image: damage done by rot that will produce toxins 2. Acontinuing abundance of food New Traits Currently in Trials • Vitamin enrichment oils (vitamins A, B12, folic acid, K) • long chain Ω-3 fatty acid enriched oils (canola, soybean) Golden Rice was an early health enhanced plant - The rice was a terrific health benefit in low and middle inc
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