✍️✍️ 10 CURRENT ISSUES IN USE OF TECHNOLOGIES
1. DNA TAGGING
Andhra Pradesh is drafting a legislation that will enable collection and storage of genetic fingerprints in a centralized database to track offenders.
• DNA testing as evidence is not provided under Indian Evidence Act 1872 and Criminal Procedure Code 1973.
• The Union had created similar draft in 2012 which ran into controversy due to concerns around violation of privacy rights.
• Unscientific investigation: In India, instead of forensic investigators and scientists, an untrained constable goes to crime scene first, who does not know how to scientifically collect evidences and in the process destroys vital DNA evidence.
2. GERMLINE EDITING
Germline editing is a genome- editing technology that can, in principle, be developed to make specific and targeted genetic alterations in embryos, which will be carried by all the cells of a resulting child and passed on to his/her offspring, a part of the human gene pool.
• There are various ethical and technical issues involved with germline editing.
• It can create unforeseen changes in the genome which are undesirable.
• It has also been ethically questioned whether editing gene to create babies that parents desires would make them more like commodities.
3. MITOCHONDRIAL REPLACEMENT THERAPY (3 PARENTS BABY)
Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) of United Kingdom has allowed the first mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT) by allowing creation of a “three-parent baby” — a child in which the vast majority of DNA comes from the mother and father and a small amount of DNA comes from a female donor.
• Ethical grounds because it is seen as destroying two embryos
• Scientists worry because a bit of cytoplasm is usually transferred along with the pronuclei. That means that unacceptably high numbers of disease carrying mitochondria may also get transferred.
• It could mark the push to create “Designer babies” which may commoditize mankind etc.
4. GENE EDITING
Researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University have successfully used genome editing technology called CRISPR/Cas9 to correct a genetic mutation that’s linked to a heart disorder called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in human embryos.
While some members of the scientific community have argued that a moratorium should be called on human genome editing, others have argued that it is unethical to withhold a technology that would eliminate devastating genetic diseases, such as cystic fibrosis.
The Chinese researchers who used CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology to eradicate the human β-globulin (HBB) gene from the germline of the human embryo were confronted with some challenges, which made them to stop the research prematurely.
They discovered off-target mutations in the genome. Off-target mutations are unintended mutations in the genome. They occur when CRISPR-Cas9 cleaves other DNA sequences within the genome that are homologous to the target DNA sequences. These mutations can be deleterious. Off-target mutations can cause cell death or transformation.
5. FOOD VERSUS FUEL
Debate: Should the farmland for food crops be diverted to produce bio-fuel crops such as jatropha?
a) Bio-fuels are promising alternative to fossil fuels and can help achieve our energy requirements.
b) Bio-fuels are more environment friendly causing less pollution. This feature raises their value especially in this era of global warming and climate change.
c) These alternative fuel sources could help stabilize oil prices apart from providing employment to millions.
a) Growing crops capable of producing bio-fuels requires large tracts of land. This means lesser land remains to grow food crops to meet food security situation.
b) Also lesser land will remain available for grazing animals.
c) Bio-fuel crops requires relatively large amount of water for irrigation apart from causing greater risk of soil erosion.
a) Food safety and security could be better tackled.
b) Situation of hunger and mal-nutrition could also be better managed.
c) More food crops production would mean less price and this would benefit poor the most.
a) Growing bio-fuels is more profitable and thus could help small and marginalized farmers.
b) Bio-fuels could act as an alternative to surplus food grains crop production.
6. CURRENT ISSUES WITH NANOTECHNOLOGY
A) Governance issues
The boundary-crossing nature of nanotechnology has given rise to several issues. Because materials at the nano-scale are not confined to one particular scientific field or industrial sector, nanotechnology is expected to have an impact that crosses many existing disciplinary and institutional boundaries. Thus, the question here is how particular countries, groups, or actors can facilitate the responsible development of nanotechnology.
B) Health and environmental issues
Another major challenge that nanotechnology has raised across the world is the potential risk of nanotechnology to human health and the environment due to the size of the nano particles.
C) Ethical consequences
For instance nanotechnology may be used in warfare, may invade people’s privacy, or may impinge on the relationship between human beings and technology.
Effect on developing and underdeveloped countries
Reverse effects of nanotechnology developments on material demands and consequently on developing countries’ export of raw materials. Properties at the nano-scale may be used to imitate the properties of rare minerals, thus affecting the export rates of their main producers.
D) Human Resource issues
A developing country such as India may struggle to find quality human resource, esp. in an emerging field which requires cutting edge research.
6. NET NEUTRALITY (NN)
A.K. Bhargava Committee on Net Neutrality was setup by DoT in 2015. In 2016, TRAI released a pre-consultation paper on Net neutrality.
• What should be principles for ensuring nondiscriminatory treatment of Internet traffic by access providers.
• At present there is no single standard accepted definition of NN.
• Unclear regulatory structure on NN – In India, issues of licensing and spectrum allocation are dealt by DoT while regulatory aspects are dealt by TRAI.
• There is a need for preserving customer privacy and national security along with regulating NN.
7. SPACE DEBRIS
In April 2017, various space agencies such as NASA, European Space Agency in Washington raised the concern regarding increasing space debris.
More on the issue
• Space junk travels at speeds up to 30,000 km an hour, which turns tiny pieces of orbital debris into deadly shrapnel that can damage satellites, space shuttles, space stations and spacecraft with humans aboard.
• Various space agencies have to manoeuvre their space programme in light of increasing space debris thus adding to extra economic and human resource on space programme.
• International guidelines suggest removing space crafts from low-Earth orbit within 25 years of the end of their mission. However, only 60 percent of missions follows the guidelines.
• Moreover, space-scientists concern about the inexpensive, tiny satellites called CubeSats which are going to add space junk around 15% in next 10 years.
• Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, and Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) advocates Global mitigation measures takes many forms ; including preventing the creation of new debris, designing satellites to withstand impacts by small debris, and improving operational procedures such as using orbital regimes with less debris, and predicting and avoiding collisions.
7. WEAPONIZATION OF SPACE
With China and US at loggerheads, a fourth frontier (space) is likely to come about with sophisticated weapons being place in the orbit.
What is Weaponization of Space?
• The weaponization of space includes placing weapons in outer space or on heavenly bodies as well as creating weapons that will travel from Earth to attack or destroy targets in space.
• Examples include the placing of orbital or suborbital satellites with the intention of attacking enemy satellites, using ground-based direct ascent missiles to attack space assets, jamming signals sent from enemy satellites, using lasers to incapacitate enemy satellites, plasma attacks, orbital ballistic missiles, and satellite attacks on Earth targets.
• Space weapons can be further classified into direct-energy and kinetic-energy weapons.
• Waeaponization of space is distinctly different from militarization of Space. While the former entails placing weapons in the space or treating space as a battleground, the latter is simply using space to assist ground based military operations.
• In present day, militaries around the world rely heavily on data generated by the satellites.
• Space warfare can basically be studied in three ways:
A) auxiliary systems, which can assist in warfare on other terrains;
B) defensive systems, which are required to protect these space assets;
C) weaponized systems – which are purely offensive in nature.
8. FOOD REGULATION
Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) issued draft regulations to allow food fortification in foods for public health benefit.
• It is still not mandatory to fortify food and is limited to only voluntary initiatives.
• There are no fortification standards to enhance the efficacy of the fortified food.
9. ANTI-MICROBIAL RESISTANCE
What is Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)?
• Antimicrobial resistance is resistance of a microorganism to an antimicrobial drug that was originally effective for treatment of infections caused by it.
• Antibiotic resistance occurs naturally, but misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals is accelerating the process. Poor infection prevention and control further accelerate it.
• Threats to global health, food security, and development
• A growing number of infections – such as pneumonia, tuberculosis etc– are becoming harder to treat as the antibiotics used to treat them become less effective.
• Longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and increased mortality.
• Superbugs have lately emerged as one of the major pitfalls of antimicrobial resistance.
• A study by University of California says that E-cigarettes are attracting a new population of adolescents who might not otherwise have smoked tobacco products.
• Supreme Court has banned orally ingested tobacco products recently.
• Government has put high taxes on cigarettes.
• The above steps seem to have pushed the sale of e-cigarettes.
Problems in E-cigarettes
• There is no convincing evidence proving that e-cigarettes help quit smoking.
• With different flavours, it may promote ‘nicotine addiction’ by inducing habit of smoking in non-smokers.
• Some aerosols of the E-cigarettes have cancer causing agents like formaldehyde.
• Nicotine is considered to promote cardiovascular diseases. Nicotine may also affect the brain development in foetuses.
Source: – Taken from Neeraj Nachiketa’s Sir Page