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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?



Failures and Risks in Biosafety Regulationby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesJuly 24th, 2014Accidents at CDC and elsewhere point up the difficulties in regulating potentially dangerous releases of genetically modified organisms, which scientists are, quite responsibly, discussing.
Proposed Gene Technology Could Alter Organisms in Wildby Carolyn Y. JohnsonBoston GlobeJuly 17th, 2014Scientists say that this use of the new gene-editing technology could lead to inadvertent species extinctions, new genes spreading through the environment in unexpected ways, and unforeseen ecological ripple effects.
C.D.C. Director Admits to Pattern of Unsafe Practicesby Denise GradyThe New York TimesJuly 16th, 2014Dr. Thomas Frieden admitted that recent laboratory accidents involving flu viruses and anthrax were not isolated mistakes, but part of a broader problem of unsafe practices at the agency.
Seralini Republished: Roundup-Ready GMO Maize Causes Serious Health Damageby Oliver TickellThe EcologistJune 25th, 2014A scientific study has been republished following its controversial retraction under strong commercial pressure.
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.
Is it Right to Reverse Extinction?by Ben MinteerNature World ViewMay 14th, 2014It cuts against the progressive aims of science to say it, but there can be wisdom in taking our foot off the gas, in resisting the impulse to further control and manipulate; to fix nature.
Don’t Shut the Door on the Synthetic Biology Debateby Jack StilgoeThe GuardianMay 8th, 2014A new set of concerns arise about regulation of synthetic biology. SynBio will become what scientists, innovators, users, regulators and others make of it.
Scientists Add Letters to DNA’s Alphabet, Raising Hope and Fearby Andrew PollackThe New York TimesMay 7th, 2014Scientists report that they have taken a significant step toward altering the fundamental alphabet of life — creating an organism with an expanded artificial genetic code in its DNA.
Neanderthals Are People, Tooby Svante PaaboThe New York TimesApril 24th, 2014Ancient genomes show that the Neanderthals were genetically very similar to us. In a civilized society, we would never create a human being in order to satisfy scientific curiosity; why would it be different for a Neanderthal?
Bracing For A Battle, Vermont Passes GMO Labeling Billby Eliza Barclay and Jeremy BernfeldNPRApril 24th, 2014The Green Mountain State is poised to become the first to require food companies to label products containing genetically modified ingredients.
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