植物和食物仍是基因工程的研究課題。Delta ＆ Pine Land公司獲得一項技術專利，就是一種經基因改造過的種籽，第二次播種時不會發芽，除非要灑上該公司具有專利的一種方劑才行，而方劑中主要都是抗生素。孟山都公司想用這種「終止技術」來阻止農民回收基因工程的種籽，強迫用戶年年都向它購買新的種籽。
What might it be like to be a Buddhist in a future world where your life started with your parents designing your genes? In addition to screening for unwanted genetic diseases, they select for sex, height, eye, hair, and skin-color, and, if your parents are Buddhists, maybe even genes that allow you to sit easily in the full lotus position. Pressured by current social fads, they may also have chosen genes whose overall functions are not clearly understood but are rumored to be connected with temperament, intelligence, mindfulness, and perhaps psychic powers. (There is no longer any need to search for tulkus. They now clone themselves and get reborn in their own clones.) If your parents are poor, they may have been paid to design you with genes tailored for a particular occupation, together with a pre-birth contract for future employment. As in the film Gattaca, you probably belong to a clearly defined social class according to the degree of your genetic enhancement. Of course there may still be a few weird, unenhanced naturals-by-choice meditating in the mountains.
From the very first milk you suckled, your food is genetically engineered. The natural world is completely made over, invaded and distorted beyond recognition by genetically engineered trees, plants, animals, insects, bacteria, and viruses, both planned and run amok. Illnesses are very different too. Most of the old ones are gone or mutated into new forms, yet most people are suffering from the aftermath of genetically engineered pathogens, either used in biowarfare, or mistakenly released into the environment, or recombined in toxic form from originally harmless but rapidly mutating engineered organisms. Genetic engineering is so commonplace, you started your own simple experiments with it in elementary school.
That future is more plausible than you might think. From a Buddhist perspective, we need to analyze how current developments in genetic engineering are providing the causal seeds that will influence the worlds of the future. Because genetic engineering has the potential to radically transform both nature and human nature, it poses a much greater threat than other technologies.
According to Buddhist teachings, nature as we experience it is a label for the shared karma of sentient beings on the planet, and human nature is a karmic mixture of thought and emotion that has to be transformed on the path to enlightenment. Since karma—and suffering—will still be with us in the Brave New World, some have suggested that genetic engineering is not a big deal for Buddhists, that the work cut out for us now will, essentially, not change. But maybe we should take a deeper look.
What, for instance, is the relation of genetic engineering to our potential for enlightenment and its realization? The Buddhist view is that the condition of our bodies and nervous systems affects our minds and vice versa. That is why karmic-based ethics insists on purity of both mind and body as a prerequisite for spiritual progress. For example, when we meditate, subtle physiological changes take place in our bodies that resonate with our level of spiritual progress. The deeper our meditation, the more profound the body-mind transformation. Likewise, from the time of the Buddha, Buddhists have recognized that certain places have special natural energies that enhance progress in meditation and insight.
Genetic engineering has the potential for altering both our bodies and environments in ways that lessen their ability to support the process of personal transformation. For instance, when a person takes drugs, the bodily physiology becomes altered which makes meditation more difficult; similarly, genetic engineering may impact our bodies in ways as yet unknown that will impede our progress on the Path. Even if there is only a relatively small possibility of genetic engineering affecting progress on the path to enlightenment, it is a serious cause for concern. Because science deals only with the physical realm, no scientific experiment can possibly assess this kind of risk.
Another key concept, which Buddhism cherishes and science ignores, is the first moral precept: the principle of non-harming and respect for all sentient life and for its potential for enlightenment. Sentient beings have a central nervous system, so they are aware of pain (plants are not considered sentient). An important corollary is the alleviation of suffering and the notion of selfless compassion as a guiding principle in our actions.
Buddhism, then, condemns any instrumental use of human or non- human sentient life by geneticists, or anyone else. That means Buddhists shouldn't treat sentient beings as objects or tools to be used without regard for their own wishes or aspirations. Thus, the Buddhist approach to genetic engineering begins with analyzing its effect on life, how it creates or alleviates suffering, and how it aids or cripples the efforts of sentient beings to realize their potential for enlightenment.
Some geneticists are well-intentioned in their desire to use genetic engineering in altruistic ways. For example, in agriculture they are trying to increase yields and resistance to harmful insects. In the field of medicine they are trying to develop new genetic cures for cancer and inherited genetic diseases. Yet many get caught up in their own desires for profit, power, and fame.
Even well-intentioned efforts often look dubious from a Buddhist viewpoint. Animals are transformed genetically in ways that are often cruel, and humans are being treated as guinea pigs to test genetically engineered food. The basic health of ecosystems and the longer term health of life on the planet are also disregarded.
The second moral precept is the prohibition against stealing. Yet, biotech corporations and even some universities are stealing our genes, the genes of indigenous peoples, native herbs and plants, patenting them, and then charging for their use. The Buddhist approach is much different.
The Buddha taught that, in interacting with others and with the environment, we should emulate the honey-bee as it takes pollen from flowers. The advantage is mutual and there is no harm.
Furthermore, Buddhism understands the cosmos as an open system. In contradistinction, the scientific method usually operates within hypothesized artificial and closed systems that are assumed to have some meaningful, but incomplete and imperfect, correspondence with the "real" world. What seems to be the case in the laboratory may or may not be valid in the natural world. Scientific methodology cannot, because of its inherent limitations, assess the full extent of the possible effects of genetically engineered alterations on living creatures in a world that is an open system.
From the viewpoint of basic Buddhist morality, specific developments in genetic engineering are troubling and point to a future riddled with ethical uncertainty and complexity. Buddhist practitioners first need to know what is actually going on in the field, before they can do their own karmic analyses of how they and the world we all live in will be affected in ways that are important to them and what their appropriate responses might be. The following is a representative sampling of some of the areas of greatest ethical concern.
Plants and food continue to be subjects for genetic engineering . The Delta & Pine Land Company received a U.S. patent on a technique that genetically alters seed so that it will not germinate if replanted a second time, so that their seeds lose their viability unless sprayed with a patented formula containing primarily antibiotics. Monsanto Corporation wants to use this "Terminator Technology" to keep farmers from collecting genetically engineered seed, forcing them to buy it every year.
To avoid dependency on petroleum-based plastics, some scientists in the U.S., Europe, and Canada have genetically engineered plants that produce plastic within their stem structures. They claim that it biodegrades in about six months.
To be continued