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About Bioethics & Human Biotechnology


Bioethics established itself in the late 1960s as a field concerned with the ethical and philosophical implications of certain biological and medical procedures, technologies, and treatments. Early issues included end-of-life decision-making, organ donation, and human experimentation. Human biotechnology became a concern when the first bioethics institutes were established in the early 1970s. This attention skyrocketed in 1990 when the U.S. Human Genome Project earmarked 3% to 5% of its $3 billion federal budget to the Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI) research program, making its activities the world's largest bioethics program.

Bioethics initially represented diverse ethical philosophies. But by the mid-1980s, most professional bioethicists were grounded in individualist and utilitarian frameworks. Bioethicists appropriately continued to consider informed consent, patient safety and similar topics, but their attention to the broad social and political meanings of human biotechnologies had faded.

This shift has been unfortunate for the public's understanding. Most bioethicists present themselves as disinterested analysts who can be trusted to represent a full range of constituencies: researchers, biotech corporations, patients, religious groups, marginalized communities, and other affected parties. But in fact, many promote their own world views, which often emphasize libertarian values over commitments to the public interest.

The role of bioethics has been further compromised by its increasing financial and professional ties to the biotech industry. Many university bioethics centers receive funding from biotech corporations, and many bioethicists serve as paid or unpaid members of corporate "ethical advisory boards."



Procedure to Create Babies with Three People's DNA Could be Legalised in Aprilby Ian SampleThe Guardian July 22nd, 2014Government to press ahead with regulations on mitochondrial transfer after public consultation, but several hurdles remain.
Sequenced in the U.S.A.: A Desperate Town Hands Over Its DNAby Amanda WilsonPacific StandardJuly 21st, 2014The new American economy in three tablespoons of blood, a Walmart gift card, and a former mill town’s DNA.
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.
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.
Shameful Conflicts of Interest Involving California's Stem Cell Agencyby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesJuly 9th, 2014The former President of CIRM just took a job on the board of a company that benefited from the agency's grants, highlighting the conflicts of interest that have always bedeviled the agency.
What-Syn-a-Name?by Jim ThomasThe GuardianJuly 8th, 2014Synthetic biology is attracting attention from both scientists and regulators. But there is little agreement on what it is. Can we find a road out of synthetic biology’s definitional quagmire?
Seedy Tale: Chinese Researchers Stole Patented Corn, U.S. Prosecutors Allegeby Mara HvistendahlScienceJuly 7th, 2014Over a span of years, a Chinese company allegedly came up with various ways of stealing coveted seed lines developed by agricultural giants DuPont Pioneer, Monsanto, and LG Seeds.
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.
Science Joins Push to Screen Statistics in Papersby Richard Van NoordenNature NewsJuly 3rd, 2014The new policy follows efforts by other journals to bolster standards of data analysis.
We're Already Designing Babies[With CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Olga KhazanThe AtlanticJuly 3rd, 2014Even today, parents are selecting for the traits they want in their offspring. But how far should the genetic tailoring go?
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