The politics of biotechnology

Anders Sandberg (
01 Jun 1999 16:51:05 +0200

I am reading the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (, containing the talks from a conference on world food supply. A very cheering view really; while there certainly are some big problems to solve the overall future looks reasonably bright globally (locally, there might still be plenty of trouble). However, one factor that appears to be very important for this to become true is the spread of biotechnology from the North to the South, and several speakers mentioned the problem of balancing intellectual property and profit with the need to get bioengineered crops to the poor countries. The problems appear to be economical and politicial in this area, not technical. The consensus seemed to be that what we need to fix food shortages is richer poor countries. Any ideas for extropian solutions of biotech spread?

This is really an area where the good side of biotech can be demonstrated. Anybody saying we should not spread genetically modified organisms better explain how to feed 10 billion people sustainably otherwise. There are of course problems with some biotechnologies
(such as the risk of Microsoft-like copy-protected crops), but there
is great potential here. One of the most interesting ideas suggested was to fix vitamin A deficiency by adding carotenoid genes to crops; in areas where people live mainly of the same food day after day increases in nutritive value and even the introduction of vaccination-genes could be very powerful.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
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