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Abstract

Modern new biotechnology has the potential to provide major economic and other benefits, but at the same time it poses potential hazards for human health, the environment, the ‘natural’ biological order and can have adverse socio-economic consequences. The application of such technology frequently violates traditional ethical, moral and religious values. This paper after outlining possible benefits of modern new biotechnologies, discusses the type of biosafety risks which they pose, their possible adverse consequences for the sustainability of biodiversity and agriculture and their potential impacts on socioeconomic welfare and traditional cultures. Particular concern is expressed about the possible consequences of such technologies for developing countries and the practice in some developed countries of issuing patents conferring very broad rights over the use of genetically engineered material. Because these rights are so broad in some cases they have the potential to establish powerful multinational monopolies in the hands of private companies. Global debate about these issues suggest that more emphasis should be given globally to the socio-economic consequences of such technology than in the past. The need for this is highlighted by the North-South divide. Developing countries lag considerably in this new technological field, are placed in a dependant position and have weak institutional structures to control the application of such technology

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