The new human biotechnologies have the potential for both great good and great harm. If used responsibly they could lead to medical advances and improved health outcomes. If misapplied they could exacerbate health disparities and generate new forms of discrimination and inequality. If we are to realize their benefits yet avoid their risks we will need regulations, laws, and guidelines at both national and international levels.
But how and where should the lines be drawn? If drawn too tightly they could constrain valuable medical research. If drawn too loosely they could open the door to a Gattaca-like world of neo-eugenic practices and ideologies.
In the United States serious discussion of these questions has been thwarted for the past eight years by partisanship and polarization, and constructive engagement by the Bush administration at the international level has been effectively nil.
The good news, however, is that during this same period many countries have been developing comprehensive human biotech policies that strike a practicable and socially responsible balance between being overly restrictive and overly permissive. A survey of all 192 countries...