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9.6 Option – Biotechnology: 7. Ethical issues

Syllabus reference (October 2002 version)
7. Ethical issues relevant to the use of biotechnology are important and need to be considered

Students learn to:


Extract from Biology Stage 6 Syllabus (Amended October 2002). © Board of Studies, NSW.

Prior learning: Stage 4-5, 4.8.4(a) and (b), 5.8.3(a).

H.S.C. module 9.3 Blueprint of Life (subsection 5).

Background: The use of DNA technology is moving forward faster than any other area of biology. In many ways it can be said that the science in this area is moving forward faster than the moral or legal parts. Most people are horrified by the site of a human ear growing on the back of a mouse. So there needs to be some ethical decisions to reflect the different views of groups within the society of humans.

use available evidence to identify and discuss ethical and social issues associated with the use of biotechnology

Ethical and social issues can be discussed by looking at different issues such as:

The benefits from the use of the technology should not be just economic but should include a better quality of life in terms of health and a cleaner environment.

The use of biotechnology should be open and different viewpoints should be respected.

Self-determination of humans must be allowed to occur and the dignity and integrity of the whole of society and the environment should be maintained.

The benefits and disadvantages are distributed fairly between different groups in society and are not just a benefit to one group while disadvantaging another. This includes present and future generations.

Ethical issues are discussed widely on the Internet. The following sites are good starting points.

Ethics: A tool for making the right decisions on technology

Could pig to human transplants revolutionize medicine? A report on the promises, risks and controversy (external website) Frontline, PBS, USA

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explain why different groups in society may have different views about the use of DNA technology

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identify and evaluate ethical issues related to one of the following:

  • development of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
  • animal cloning
  • gene cloning

Development of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Many genetically modified organisms are designed to be food for human consumption. The evaluation of the ethical issues can be decided on the arguments for and against the issues.

Some arguments for:

Arguments against:

Use the information above to evaluate the issue of GMOs and decide in your own opinion whether the use of GMOs should be allowed.

Some good starting points can be found on the following webpages:

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