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About Media Coverage & Human Biotechnology


Until a few years ago, human biotechnologies were rarely discussed in the popular media. Now magazine covers, television shows, newspaper headlines and front-page articles showcase their development and the controversies surrounding them.

This increased coverage is welcome; sunlight can be a good disinfectant. Nevertheless, mainstream media coverage has been inadequate or misleading in several regards.

Too often it prematurely celebrates new techniques as "breakthroughs" or "medical miracles," even when they are preliminary and unconfirmed. This is particularly dangerous in a growing culture of "science by press release," where fantastic findings are often later debunked (with less fanfare) by peer review. Also, the press rarely scrutinizes scientists' and bioethicists' statements, actions, or potential conflicts of interest with the same rigor they bring to reports about other public figures.

Lastly, too few media accounts make clear the full import of what's at stake. Excitement about possible new medical therapies tends to drown out consideration of undesirable prospects including genetic discrimination, increased health inequalities, and the misuse of human biotechnologies.



The Perfect 46: A “Science Factual” Film about our Near Futureby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesJuly 10th, 2014A new science fiction film called “a sort of prequel to Gattaca” highlights the rise and fall of a genetic startup that analyzes people’s genomes to assess their ability to produce disease-free children.
Cross-Border Surrogacy: Media Spotlight, EU Court Decision, International Forumby Marcy DarnovskyBiopolitical TimesJuly 10th, 2014What happens when people flout their own countries’ laws by going abroad to hire a surrogate in one of the few jurisdictions that allow it?
A Paragraph in Slow Motion: Three-Person IVF in The New York Timesby George Estreich, Biopolitical Times guest contributorJuly 10th, 2014A close look at the rhetoric used to justify experimental technologies, and particularly at the way reasonable objections are dismissed.
On Meta-Research and the STAP Fiascoby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesJuly 7th, 2014The authors of the ballyhooed STAP papers have reluctantly agreed to retract them; meanwhile Stanford is launching a project to investigate the process of research.
Wading into Racismby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesJune 6th, 2014A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History has been out for a month, and the fuss, such as it was, seems to be dying down, but the underlying issues remain significant.
"Three-Person IVF" Update Reveals How Little We Knowby Jessica CussinsThe Huffington PostJune 5th, 2014The UK fertility regulator has been saying the techniques are "not unsafe" for three years now. This should not be interpreted to mean that they are in fact safe.
Biotech Industry Cooks up PR Plans to Get us to Swallow Synthetic Biology Foodby Dana PerlsFood and Technology BlogMay 22nd, 2014Friends of the Earth exposes what was supposed to be a closed door and off-the-record industry meeting of some of the most powerful agribusiness, food and synthetic biology companies in the world.
Scientists Hoping to Ease Interpretation of the DNA ‘Book of Life’by Carolyn Y. JohnsonThe Boston GlobeMay 19th, 2014The public tends to see DNA as holding almost-mystical power, but in reality, interpreting a healthy person’s DNA with the current tools and understanding of human genetics is tricky.
Government Cracks Down on Fake DNA-Based Medicineby Eric Hal SchwartzIn The CapitalMay 13th, 2014The Federal Trade Commission has taken the first steps to quashing the 21st century snake-oil salesmen of direct-to-consumer genetic testing in a settlement finalized Tuesday.
Your Genes Are Obsoleteby Michael WhitePacific StandardMay 2nd, 2014Giving a physical meaning to the concept of a gene was a triumph of 20th-century biology, but as it turns out, this scientific success hasn’t solved the problems we hoped it would.
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