Op-Ed

George Annas

Developments in biotechnology have made possible species-changing and even species-endangering procedures, says George Annas. We urgently need a global governance structure to regulate them.

Albert Einstein cogently observed that "imagination is more important than knowledge." He could have gone further. Moral imagination is more important than scientific imagination. The unmet challenge for science at the beginning of the 21st century is to develop a global bioethics governance system that can help to ensure that biomedical technology enhances human life, and does not degrade or end it.

Paradoxically, the global biotechnology research agenda is facing backwards and forwards at the same time. Looking back, we are trying to react to threats of global pandemics, bioterrorism, and biowarfare. Looking forwards, we are striving to use new biomedical technologies not only to cure or prevent disease but also to physically modify humans in ways that could change our concept of humanity.

So far the world is taking governance of backward-looking technologies more seriously than the forward-looking ones. This is probably because the world has had lots of experience of pandemics and war, because...