HISTSCI 136 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Philip Leder, Fire Ant, Mature Technology

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26 Jun 2018
Midterm Study Guide
1. Support or contest the claim that contemporary biotechnology is continuous with a
long history of human control and manipulation of biology beginning with
agriculture and animal domestication. Use specific examples from lectures,
readings, or outside materials to support your claim.
Thesis: Contemporary biotech can trace its roots to the selective breeding of plants and
animals in the earliest societies of mankind. Although the pace and intensity of research
has increased dramatically over the last century, that is a necessary aspect of scientific
research because it helps mitigate overpopulation/health (malnourishment, disease, etc.)
Biotechnology definitions
oOECD (History of Biotech, week 1 reading)  application of scientific and
engineering principles to the processing of materials by biological agents to
provide goods and services
oAmerican Chemical Society  application of biological organisms, systems, or
processes by various industries to learn about the science of life and the
improvement of the value of materials and organisms such as pharma, crops, and
Relatively recent timeline (Bud reading)
o1697: Prussian Georg Stahl pioneered fermentation technology 
zymotechnology [see #5 below]
oLuther Burbank: selective breeding/crossbreeding
oEx Parte Latimer
oEarly 1900s/WWI: Yeast for animal feed grown on enormous scale in Germany
using synthetic ammonia
Similar microbes used in Hungary; pig slaughterhouse
Pastuer Institute developed (made acetone from starch using bacteria)
oWWII: Microbially-produced antibiotics (Alexander Fleming and penicillin, etc.)
o1960s-Present: era of molecular biology (recombinant DNA technology, genome
sequencing, etc.)
Longer history
oSelective breeding of plants and animal has been practiced for 11,000+ years
Key species: Wheat, rice, dogs
Emphasis on low-maintenance, high-yield/high-productivity
oPlant methods of manipulation
Seeding by hand instead of waiting for growth
Selecting for desirable traits
Spraying with chemicals
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Bombarding with x-rays, hoping new traits emerge
oManipulating animals
oDarwin coined term “selective breeding” and “artificial selection” mid 1800s
2. Choose two examples of agricultural biotechnologies drawn from material discussed
in lectures or readings, which can range from the nineteenth century to present day.
Briefly describe the two agricultural biotechnologies you are comparing, as well as
the historical circumstances in which they were introduced. Then evaluate how
tropes of nationalism, progress, modernity, or utopia have been used to frame the
possible social and economic impacts of these agricultural biotechnologies.
oOverpopulation & malnutrition: huge problems affecting global south and
developing countries
By 2050, over 90% of the world’s population will be living in developing
countries  need for self-sustainable, high-yielding agriculture
UN stats show that 800 mil people (~12%) of world pop is malnourished
oGreen Revolution  A set of R&D initiatives occurring between 1930s-late
1960s; increased agricultural production worldwide (particularly in the
developing world)
Led by Norman Borlaug, the “Father of the Green Revolution,” who
received Nobel Peace Price in 1970
Credited with saving 1+bil people from starvation, developing high-yield
grains, expanding irrigational infrastructure, hybridized seeds, synthetic
fertilizers, pesticides, etc.
2 main areas of impact: (1) Mexico & (2) India
(1) 1940s: Coordination b/w MEX gov’t, US gov’t, UN, Food &
Agriculture Organization (FAO), and Rockefeller foundation 
transformed agricultural infrastructure to solve problem of lacking food
Hybrid maize, modern agriculture techniques, synthetic fertilizers, land
reform (dry-land methods  advanced irrigation)
(2) 1960s: Coordination b/w Indian Council of Agriculture Research,
Borlaug, local scientists, and Rockefeller  production of wheat, hybrid
seeds, use of insecticides, pesticides, etc.
(1) Golden Rice
o1960 International Rice Research Foundation founded; collab with Rockefeller
Foundation in Philippines
1982 Rockefeller Foundation initiative to GM rice for more nutrition
o1990s Using rDNA tech, scientists inserted gene that produced precursor for
vitamin A (beta carotene) in rice
Vitamin A deficiency kills 670,000 children <5 years old each year
o2000s Field testing at LSU, Philippines, Taiwan, Bangladesh
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2005 Golden Rice 2 announced; produces up to 23x more beta carotene
than original
oPlanting licenses distributed for free to subsistence farmers: as long as farmer
does not make more than $10k/year, no royalties need to be paid
oOpposition from environmental and anti-globalization activists: claim there are
sustainable, more efficient ways to solve vitamin A deficiency that do not
compromise food, nutrition, and financial security
Greenpeace opposes use of any patented GM organisms; IRRI defends
that no companies involved in production will receive any royalty from
Vandana Shiva: problem not the plant but the poverty/loss of biodiversity,
calls this a “hoax” and a product of “Monoculture model” (we used to
consume nearly 8500 species  now reduced to 8 main crops), should
focus instead on sweet potatoes, carrots
2013 Plot of golden rice at IRRI Philippines destroyed by protestors
oSupport from Bill & Melinda Gates; received many awards/Patents for Humanity
from US Patent Office
2016: 107 Nobel laureates signed letter urging Greenpeace to abandon
campaign against GMOs (golden rice in particular)
(2) Bt Cotton (India): Monsanto GMO cotton which produces an insecticide to bollworm
oEliminates need to use large amounts of broad-spectrum insecticides; also
effective against many other cotton pests
oFirst approved for field trials in US in 1993; commercial use in US in ’95 and in
China ‘97
o2002: Joint venture between Monsanto and Mahyco introduced Bt cotton to India
o2011: India grew largest GM cotton at 10.6 mil hectares; US 4.0mil hectares,
China 3.9mil hectares
Increased yield of cotton
Reduction in pesticide use  less environmental degradation + promoted
Reduction in cost of cultivation, lower farming risks
Higher cost of seeds
Monsanto seeds lose vigor after 1 generation  Indian Council of Agri-
Research developed cheaper variety w/ reusable seeds
oFarmer suicide in India: higher costs of seeds made farmers take out larger loans
at higher rates, 300k farmer suicides since mid ‘90s
Shiva: GM “seeds of suicide”
Increasing costs in farming associated with decreasing yields even with
use of BT  distress among farmers
Tenuous link between GM crops and suicide since it was a problem before
introduction of such plants in 2002
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