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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.

California stem cell agency approves $30 million to fast-track clinical trialsby David JensenThe Sacramento BeeOctober 19th, 2016Dubbed the new “pitching machine,” CIRM on Wednesday completed creation of a $30 million effort to dramatically speed up FDA approval of stem cell therapies.
Social science: Include social equity in California Biohubby Science FARE (Feminist Anti-Racist Equity) Collective: Jessica Cussins, Kate Weatherford Darling, Ugo Edu, Laura Mamo, Jenny Reardon & Charis ThompsonNatureOctober 19th, 20165–7% of the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative's Biohub health-research budget should be used to design and monitor goals of justice and equality from the outset, or social inequalities could limit the project's potential.
Reports of ‘three-parent babies’ multiplyby Sara ReardonNature NewsOctober 19th, 2016Claims of infants created using mitochondrial manipulation techniques in Mexico and China, and two pregnancies in the Ukraine, stir scientific and ethical debate.
What Stem Cell Researchers Talk About When They Talk About Ethicsby Danielle VentonKQEDOctober 18th, 2016"Biology is really complicated! Engineers who design something expect it to work. But if you put something [designed] into an organism, the chances that something odd will happen are extremely high.”
7 Highlights from Nuffield Council’s Review on the Ethics of Genome Editingby Jessica Cussins, Biopolitical Times guest contributorOctober 18th, 2016A recent UK report discusses social and political implications of genetically engineering human reproduction and other controversial CRISPR applications.
The Misleading Promise of I.V.F. for Women Over 40by Jane E. BrodyNew York TimesOctober 17th, 2016Miriam Zoll pushes back on the optimistic picture that the fertility industry paints for consumers that masks over 20 million failed IVF cycles.
Meet Prelude Fertility, The $200 Million Startup That Wants To Stop The Biological Clock[citing CGS' Marcy Darnovsky]by Miguel HelftForbesOctober 17th, 2016Despite short and long-term risks with egg retrieval, fertility companies target young people as a new demographic, putting profits ahead of safety.
Mouse eggs made from skin cells in a dishby David CyranoskiNatureOctober 17th, 2016Research breakthrough sparks debate over the prospect of using stem cell techniques to produce synthetic human eggs from body tissue.
Can a DNA Test Really Predict Opiate Addiction?by Zachary SiegelThe Daily BeastOctober 15th, 2016By combining patient genetic profiles with clinical observations, tech company claims its test is 93% accurate without peer-reviewed evidence.
DNA database could help predict your disease — then get you firedby David LazarusLos Angeles TimesOctober 14th, 2016The "Precision Medicine" project of introducing big data into healthcare comes with a host of risks for individuals and communities, including privacy and genetic discrimination.
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