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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.

Dangers of an Unscientific Policy Process:
Why the UK’s legalization of “three-person babies” should not be the model for CRISPR
by Jessica Cussins, Biopolitical Times guest contributorOctober 25th, 2016The UK’s consideration of the science and public support for “mitochondrial replacement” may seem robust on its surface, but when it comes to CRISPR germline genome editing policy, we can and must do better.
CRISPR gene-editing controversy shows old ideas about East and West still prevailby Calvin Wai-Loon HoEcontimesOctober 24th, 2016Western imagination tends to fantasize Asian countries as an exotic, crude "other," viewing Chinese research as advancing primarily due to an assumed lack of regulation.
Blame bad incentives for bad scienceby Bethany BerkshireScienceNewsOctober 21st, 2016The publish-or-perish culture promotes high-impact papers with novel findings, ultimately leading to sloppy, irreproducible, and sometimes unethical practices.
Should young women sell their eggs?by Donna de la CruzThe New York TimesOctober 20th, 2016The amount of egg donors increased two-fold from 2000 to 2010, but the long-term risks of putting egg maturation into overdrive are still unknown.
Surprisingly few new parents enlist in study to have baby's genome sequencedby Jocelyn KaiserScience MagazineOctober 19th, 2016NIH-funded project, BabySeq, seeks to analyze protein-coding DNA for mutations in 7,000 genes associated with childhood diseases.
Crispr’s IPO doesn’t hit its targetby Robert WeismanThe Boston GlobeOctober 19th, 2016CRISPR Therapeutics' public offering raises half that of its rivals Editas & Intellia -- a sign that the market may be pulling back on genome editing stocks.
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.”
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