Ethics

Digital library of life

Background:-

  • An international consortium of scientists is proposing a massive project to sequence, catalog and analyze the genomes of all known eukaryotic species on the planet, an undertaking the researchers say will take 10 years, cost $4.7 billion and require more than 200 petabytes of digital storage capacity.
  • The greatest legacy of the Earth biome project will be the gift of knowledge acomplete Digital Library of Life that contains the collective biological intelligence of 3.5 billion years of evolutionary history.

Significance:-

  • Economic:-
    • Human genome project  yielded at least $1 trillion to the U.S. alone, according to a 2013 Nature study .So this project will provide immense monetary benefits.
    • Detailed sequences of every species on the earth could be many multiples of that and could benefit the world and not for just the U.S. alone.
  • More knowledge about evolution and origin of life:-
    • Being able to create their detailed genetic sequences will reveal unexpected, evolutionary connections among the genus, orders and families that make up the so-called Tree of Life.
  • Global collaboration will benefit all:-
    • For instance, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN has not only helped Indian physicists but also given a boost to Indian industries, in that they have designed specialised equipment for the machine. The EBP will have similar spin-off benefits
  • Innovation:-
    • Sequencing such a large number of organisms will require innovative computation- and-storage solutions and the programming acumen of many thousands across the world.
  • Health and food security :-
    • The integration of new genetic technologies, such as genetic testing, into the practice of clinical medicine that will guide future discoveries for generations.
    • So far, scientists have only sequenced the DNA of 0.2 percent of all known eukaryotic species. That’s helped scientists discover and understand a number of medications that exist in nature, from morphine to aspirin. So with the other 99.8 percent of un-sequenced species the inventions may be huge  and could lead to the discovery of even more drugs.
    • It could help researchers hone in on new sources of food to nourish the planet’s growing population .
  • Better knowledge about conservation:-
    • Earth BioGenome Project will give us insight into the history and diversity of life and help us better understand how to conserve it.
    • Project could help us protect species and ecosystems endangered by climate change.
  • Multiple areas:-
    • It will lay the scientific foundation for a new bio-economy that has the potential to bring innovative solutions to health, environmental, economic, and social problems to people across the globe,especially in under-developed countries that have significant biodiversity assets.

Ethical issues :-

  • Privacy and fairness in the use of genetic information, including the potential for genetic discrimination in employment and insurance
  • Ethical issues surrounding the design and conduct of genetic research with people, including the process of informed consent.
  • There are concerns that government agencies or law enforcement authorities use genome research to invade privacy and predict behaviour.
  • Fight for perfection:-
    • With Human genome project concerns about parents beginning to use the results of genome research to begin the process of seeking out the Perfect Baby. Offspring considered grotesque, revolting, impaired, repugnant or offensive could be eliminated.
    • Similarly species and creatures which don’t fit proper criteria might be eliminated slowly.
  • This project threatens to alter the nature of human existence
  • Genetic screening is only one of the moral dilemmas our culture will soon face as the result of fast-moving genetic research.
  • As technology is more advanced indeveloped countries they might reap the benefits more and sense of dependency on them might increase in future.

Conclusion:-

  • Life is sacrosanct so when scientists are trying to explore it there needs to be adequate safeguards followed to protect the interests of the people world over.

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