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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.



Biopolitics [PDF]by Marcy Darnovsky and Emily Smith BeitiksEncyclopedia of Bioethics, 4th editionAn entry from the newly released Encyclopedia of Bioethics (Bruce Jennings, editor) looks at the emerging use of the term biopolitics to address broad social and political dynamics.
Procedure to Create Babies with Three People's DNA Could be Legalised in Aprilby Ian SampleThe Guardian July 22nd, 2014Government to press ahead with regulations on mitochondrial transfer after public consultation, but several hurdles remain.
Safety Concerns Remain Over Three-Person IVFby Ted MorrowThe GuardianJuly 22nd, 2014Using mitochondrial replacement therapy to create embryos with DNA from three people could have serious consequences.
Race, Genetics and Voting?by Ian Haney LópezMoyers & CompanyJuly 18th, 2014Naturalistic assumptions about race mislead liberals in their effort to fathom race’s astringent power, shifting the focus from social dynamics to inherited essences.
The Wild West of Zoning: Go Ahead, Create DNA-Altered Glow-in-the-Dark Roses in SoMa. Nobody’s Watching.by Zelda Bronstein48 HillsJuly 11th, 2014Nobody in the San Francisco Planning Department seems to know - or care - that a startup company is making DNA-altered glow-in-the-dark roses in SoMa.
The Perfect 46: A “Science Factual” Film about our Near Futureby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesJuly 10th, 2014A new science fiction film called “a sort of prequel to Gattaca” highlights the rise and fall of a genetic startup that analyzes people’s genomes to assess their ability to produce disease-free children.
A Paragraph in Slow Motion: Three-Person IVF in The New York Timesby George Estreich, Biopolitical Times guest contributorJuly 10th, 2014A close look at the rhetoric used to justify experimental technologies, and particularly at the way reasonable objections are dismissed.
What-Syn-a-Name?by Jim ThomasThe GuardianJuly 8th, 2014Synthetic biology is attracting attention from both scientists and regulators. But there is little agreement on what it is. Can we find a road out of synthetic biology’s definitional quagmire?
Seedy Tale: Chinese Researchers Stole Patented Corn, U.S. Prosecutors Allegeby Mara HvistendahlScienceJuly 7th, 2014Over a span of years, a Chinese company allegedly came up with various ways of stealing coveted seed lines developed by agricultural giants DuPont Pioneer, Monsanto, and LG Seeds.
Scientists Threaten to Boycott €1.2bn Human Brain Projectby Ian SampleThe GuardianJuly 6th, 2014Researchers say a European commission-funded initiative to simulate the human brain suffers from 'substantial failures.'
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