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About Biopolitics, Parties, Pundits & Human Biotechnology

Policy decisions about human biotechnologies have typically been debated among elite commissions and experts. But controversy is increasingly spilling over into mainstream news media and political debates.

This trend has been most notable in the United States, with the emergence of human embryonic stem cell research as a political issue. Stem cell debates at the policy level have made this discussion far more visible to the public.

The Bush Administration's restrictions on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research elevated the issue to the front pages of newspapers. Shortly after its announcement in 2001, partisan battle lines were drawn in ways that mirror the abortion rights divide.

Republicans hoped that opposition to research that destroys embryos would increase support among their party's religious conservative base. Democrats countered by assembling a coalition of patient advocates, biomedical researchers, and biotechnology entrepreneurs and appealed to moderate swing voters and Republicans who they believed would be swayed by promises of cures.

There were some notable exceptions to this partisan line-up. Some conservatives support embryonic stem cell research; some liberals and progressives who support the research in principle criticize aspects of its conduct and regulation. Unfortunately, the polarized debate has frequently distorted facts while obscuring a range of important social issues unrelated to the moral status of embryos.

Designer babies crawl closerby Laurie ZolothCosmos MagazineOctober 5th, 2015Are humans mature enough to engineer human embryos? Embryo engineering has been rejected by every ethics committee that has ever considered it.
CRISPR-Cpf1: Hype by Association by Elliot HosmanOctober 2nd, 2015Amid Nobel Prize predictions for CRISPR-Cas9 research, a new CRISPR associated protein takes the media and science community by storm, even as its utility remains unclear.
Ontario to Cover In-Vitro Fertilization Treatments[Canada]by Rob FergusonThe StarOctober 1st, 2015Health Minister Eric Hoskins’ announcement Thursday makes Ontario the second province to cover costly programs for what is increasingly seen as an important medical issue.
List of Speakers for NAS Meeting on Human Gene Editingby Paul KnoepflerKnoepfler Lab Stem Cell BlogOctober 1st, 2015A preliminary list of speakers for the National Academies' international summit on human gene editing has emerged, with troubling lack of diversity.
Womb transplants given UK go-aheadBBCSeptember 30th, 2015In 2016, 10 women will be chosen for an NHS-approved clinical trial to receive surgery to transplant a donated uterus, monitor organ acceptance for 1 year, and then initiate up to two IVF pregnancies before removing the transplant.
Scientists Find Gene Editing with CRISPR Hard to Resist[quotes Marcy Darnovsky and Pete Shanks]by Cameron ScottHealthlineSeptember 29th, 2015CRISPR, a new technique for editing DNA, is so cheap and easy to use, we may be genetically engineering human embryos before we have time to decide if we should.
DARPA Gives MIT Lab $32 Million to Program Living Cellsby Alexandra OssolaPopular ScienceSeptember 29th, 2015Synthetic biology lab the Broad Institute Foundry announced a new defense contract to join computer scientists and companies in "chemicals, pharmaceuticals, food, energy, agriculture, and biotechnology," but the work remains vague.
Born that way? ‘Scientific’ racism is creeping back into our thinking. Here’s what to watch out for.by W. Carson Byrd & Matthew W. HugheyWashington PostSeptember 28th, 2015Two recent studies and a review of current events show the media and white communities embracing the idea of racial genetic differences in order to avoid confronting the history of systemic oppression of racialized groups.
The Messy, Complicated Nature of Assisted Reproductive Technology[cites CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by J. Wesley JuddPacific StandardSeptember 28th, 2015California court case is a representative example of a bigger issue with assisted reproductive technology in this country: It's largely unregulated and ambiguous.
Why the Majority of Sperm Donations in Canada Are from the U.S.[Canada]by Jim BrownCanadian Broadcasting CorporationSeptember 27th, 2015Only 5-10% of donated sperm in Canada is from domestic donors; the majority comes from US donors who – unlike their counterparts north of the border – are paid for their services.
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