puting, and bioinformatic techniques have already profoundly shaped the international technology landscape of today. As highlighted in Cuernavaca, the global spread of these technologies has led to the establishment of national genomic medicine platforms; high throughput microbial sequencing; the development of novel production methods, such as plant-based manufacturing of vaccines, antibodies, and other pharmaceuticals; and advances in transgenic crop bioengineering.

This burgeoning genetic knowledge base and technological growth is unequivocally global. China has some 20,000 people working in 200 biotechnology laboratories nationwide, has created 150 transgenic crops, and is a world leader in the production of protein-enhanced materials. Cuba boasts a major drug and biotechnology program, including the production of a meningococcal serotype B vaccine and a number of other pharmaceuticals that are being sold worldwide. South Korea performed what may be the world’s first successful therapeutic cloning experiment and is positioning itself as a leader in stem cell research. Singapore is investing billions of dollars in biotechnology, declaring it to be the “fourth pillar” of its economy. More than 76 sequencing centers worldwide, including centers in Brazil and China, have participated in sequencing at least one complete microbial genome.

The global dissemination of life sciences knowledge and advancing technological capacity is being driven not only by the growing use of international subcontracting and technological cooperation agreements, but also by national decisions to strengthen economy, public health, and national security, as well as international decisions to close the development gap between the North and South. It is accelerated by both long-term and short-term exchanges of biological scientists between lesser developed countries and countries such as the United States and those in Western Europe and Asia. This rapid growth and dissemination of biotechnology is unstoppable, as it should be, since advancing technologies holds tremendous potential for advancing the human security2 of the global population.

As with all technological revolutions, the potential always exists for intentional or inadvertent misapplication. These rapid technological advances, accompanied by a growing understanding of the molecular, biochemical, and physiological pathways of living organisms, particularly with respect to innate immunity, and the control of gene expression, almost inevitably place greater destructive power into the hands of the


Human security, as distinct from national or state security, is the condition or state of being characterized by freedom from pervasive threats to people’s rights; these threats include economic, food-security, health, environmental, and political situations. “Human Security Now,” http://www.humansecurity-chs.org/. Accessed November 1, 2004.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement