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About Biopolitics, Parties, Pundits & Human Biotechnology

Policy decisions about human biotechnologies have typically been debated among elite commissions and experts. But controversy is increasingly spilling over into mainstream news media and political debates.

This trend has been most notable in the United States, with the emergence of human embryonic stem cell research as a political issue. Stem cell debates at the policy level have made this discussion far more visible to the public.

The Bush Administration's restrictions on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research elevated the issue to the front pages of newspapers. Shortly after its announcement in 2001, partisan battle lines were drawn in ways that mirror the abortion rights divide.

Republicans hoped that opposition to research that destroys embryos would increase support among their party's religious conservative base. Democrats countered by assembling a coalition of patient advocates, biomedical researchers, and biotechnology entrepreneurs and appealed to moderate swing voters and Republicans who they believed would be swayed by promises of cures.

There were some notable exceptions to this partisan line-up. Some conservatives support embryonic stem cell research; some liberals and progressives who support the research in principle criticize aspects of its conduct and regulation. Unfortunately, the polarized debate has frequently distorted facts while obscuring a range of important social issues unrelated to the moral status of embryos.

Extreme Genetic Engineering and the Human FutureReclaiming Emerging Biotechnologies for the Common GoodThe Center for Genetics and Society and Friends of the Earth examine the human applications of synthetic biology. This 50-page report challenges claims that this new set of genetic engineering techniques should be seen as "the future of manufacturing, engineering and medicine."
First CRISPR Gene Drive in Mosquitoes Aims to Eradicate Malariaby Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewNovember 23rd, 2015Designers of a “selfish” gene able to spread among mosquitoes say it could wipe out malaria, but the scientific community is at odds over whether or not we should do it.
F.D.A. Targets Inaccurate Medical Tests, Citing Dangers and Costsby Robert PearThe New York TimesNovember 23rd, 2015Inaccurate, unreliable medical tests are prompting abortions, unnecessary surgeries, putting tens of thousands of people on unneeded drugs and raising medical costs.
Putting a Price on Human Eggs Makes No Senseby Debora SparFortuneNovember 21st, 2015No one wants to deal with the ugly reality that egg donation is not donation at all, but a high price paid for a piece of one’s body. We have identified this transaction and allowed it. Now we are only squabbling over the price.
Open Letter Calls for Prohibition on Reproductive Human Germline Modificationby Center for Genetics and SocietyExperiments aimed at creating genetically modified humans are unneeded from a medical view, extremely risky to any resulting children, and profoundly dangerous from a social perspective. Now is the crucial moment for taking a clear public stand.
California Judge Orders Frozen Embryos Destroyed[cites CGS Fellow Lisa Ikemoto]by Andy NewmanThe New York TimesNovember 19th, 2015A superior court judge in San Francisco ordered the thawing and destruction of a divorced couple's frozen embryos, enforcing the terms of the couple's pre-divorce agreement.
Scientists may soon be able to 'cut and paste' DNA to cure deadly diseases and design perfect babiesby Tanya LewisBusiness InsiderNovember 19th, 2015CRISPR gene editing tools are being proposed for a wide range of uses, many of which pose risks to ecological systems and human society.
CRISPR Gene Editing: Proofreaders and Undo Buttons, but Ever "Safe" Enough?by Elliot Hosman, Biopolitical TimesNovember 19th, 2015Recent trends include research reports of "spellcheck" and "undo" functions associated with CRISPR gene editing, and a shift toward greater caution about germline applications.
Gene Therapy: Comeback? Cost-Prohibitive?by Elliot Hosman, Biopolitical TimesNovember 19th, 2015Recent CRISPR news sometimes confuses germline modification - which should be put off limits - and gene therapy, which presents its own set of social and ethical risks to resolve before rushing to market.
New Rules Proposed to Address Privacy and Trust in the Precision Medicine Initiativeby Katayoun Chamany, Biopolitical Times guest contributorNovember 19th, 2015The US Precision Medicine Initiative's goal of a million sequenced genomes is helping to propel a revision to the Common Rule governing human subject research.
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