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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.



The Lessons of Asilomar for Today’s Scienceby Alexander CapronThe New York TimesMay 28th, 2015Four decades ago, concerns about the science of recombinant DNA led to a global moratorium on cutting-edge research.
Study Reveals Shortcomings in Gene Testing; Results on Estimating Disease Risk Often Conflictby Marilynn MarchioneAssociated PressMay 27th, 2015The first report from a big public-private project to improve genetic testing reveals it is not as rock solid as many people believe.
Center for Genetics and Society comments on White House and National Academies approaches to altering the human germline[Press statement]May 27th, 2015“The endorsement of a pause by the White House is an important first step."
A Note on Genome Editingby John P. HoldrenOffice of Science and Technology PolicyMay 26th, 2015The Administration believes that altering the human germline for clinical purposes is a line that should not be crossed at this time.
Weighing The Promises Of Big Genomicsby David DobbsBuzzFeedMay 21st, 2015Your DNA may be up for sale. And the sale depends on an exaggerated picture of genetic power and destiny.
Does Biotech Need Limits?by Azeen GhorayshiBuzzFeed NewsMay 19th, 2015A group of the world’s top scientists and bioethicists just got together to hammer out the goals and limits of 21st-century biotechnology. And some of them really, really don’t agree.
Innovation and Equity in an Age of Gene Editingby Charis Thompson, Ruha Benjamin, Jessica Cussins and Marcy DarnovskyThe GuardianMay 19th, 2015As experts gather in Atlanta to discuss the rights and wrongs of editing human genomes, four of the attendees explain why it is vital to put social justice at the heart of the debate.
US Science Academies Take on Human-Genome Editing[Quotes CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Sara ReardonNatureMay 18th, 2015The academies will hold an international summit this autumn, and establish a working group to develop a consensus statement.
Stem Cell 'Wild West' Takes Root Amid Lack of US Regulationby Matthew PerroneAssociated PressMay 18th, 2015More than 170 US clinics are selling experimental stem cell procedures — a mushrooming industry that has flourished despite little evidence of its safety or effectiveness.
Unregistered Surrogate-Born Children Creating 'Legal Timebomb', Judge Warnsby Owen Bowcott The GuardianMay 18th, 2015Without a court-sanctioned parental order and improved international legal frameworks, children could end up “stateless and parentless.”
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