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About Environmentalism & Human Biotechnology


Environmentalists bring to the politics of human biotechnologies their long experience of the need for caution in the face of powerful new technologies, and for responsible social governance of technological innovation.

Environmentalists pioneered the precautionary principle, which counsels that the foreseeable consequences of new technologies should be evaluated in advance of their development and use, and that the burden of demonstrating their safety lies with their advocates and beneficiaries. Environmentalists also draw attention to the need for government to regulate markets in order to ensure public health and well-being.

Environmentalists' appreciation for appropriate technology and understanding that technical fixes are often inappropriate for social problems also hold important insights for evaluating human biotechnologies. Which biomedical, reproductive, and genetic applications of are worthy of support when measured against the principles of social justice, the common good, and the public interest? Which should we forgo? Which pose novel moral and political risks that require careful oversight and regulation?



The Regulatory System May Not Be Ready for Synthetic Organismsby Susana MedeirosRegBlogJuly 15th, 2015If released into the environment, there is the risk that synthetic microorganisms will reproduce, spread, and compete with natural organisms, evolving to pose risks to humans, animals, and the environment.
Don't Mistake Genetics for Fateby Andrew Gelman & Kaiser FungThe Daily BeastJuly 11th, 2015It’s easy for the media to get misled on studies that seem to purport genetic determinism.
"Jurassic World" and the Dinosaurs at the USDAby Rachel SmolkerTruthoutJune 22nd, 2015The regulations of the US Department of Agriculture are in desperate need of an overhaul if they are to protect the public from the derailing of billions of years of evolution for the purpose of corporate profit-making.
Will Pope Francis’s Climate Message Break Through Where Others Have Failed?by Marianne LavelleScienceJune 18th, 2015The letter—184 pages long in its English version—also goes far beyond climate issues, touching on biodiversity conservation, genetically modified crops, and other issues.
CRISPR, The Disruptorby Heidi LedfordNature NewsJune 3rd, 2015A powerful gene-editing technology is the biggest game changer to hit biology since PCR. But with its huge potential come pressing concerns.
Reframing "De-extinction" by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesMay 28th, 2015Beth Shapiro is advocating for a new definition of "de-extinction" that stresses the ecological niche over genetic identity. She envisages using novel creatures to change entire ecologies.
Regulate Gene Editing in Wild Animalsby Jeantine LunshofNature World ViewMay 12th, 2015Unless properly regulated and contained, this research has the potential to rapidly alter ecosystems in irreversible and damaging ways.
DIY Bio-Engineering: Disrupting Democracyby Colleen CordesBiopolitical Times guest contributorMay 1st, 2015The Do-It-Yourself synthetic biology movement (or, DIY synbio) is not advocating "citizen science," let alone "democratizing science." It's not about science or democracy.
The Next Manhattan Projectby Patrick TuckerThe AtlanticApril 7th, 2015Anticipating cutting-edge scientific research before it happens may be key to protecting against bioterrorism.
Genes Tell Only Part of the Storyby Abigail ZugerThe New York TimesFebruary 16th, 2015Genes are seldom the whole story behind illness, and are possibly not even the sternest of the medical fates that control us.
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