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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.



Who's Advising the Government on Human Genetics?by Alice MaynardBioNewsJune 29th, 2015A diversity of voices is needed to hold the UK government accountable, instead of relying upon experts to predict long-term consequences no one can accurately foresee.
US Congress Moves to Block Human-Embryo Editingby Sara ReardonNature NewsJune 25th, 2015The House appropriations committee has approved a spending bill that would prohibit the FDA from spending money to evaluate research or clinical applications on gene editing on human embryos.
CRISPR: Move Beyond Differencesby Charis ThompsonNature CommentJune 24th, 2015Researchers and ethicists need to see past what can seem to be gendered debates when it comes to the governance of biotechnology.
Building the Face of a Criminal From DNABBCJune 18th, 2015The face of a killer constructed from DNA left at the scene of a crime: it sounds like science fiction. But revealing the face of a criminal based on their genes may be closer than we think.
UK Seeks Regulatory Advice for “Mitochondrial Replacement,” Fails to Mention Cross-Generational Implicationsby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesJune 17th, 2015How does one go about regulating the world’s first cross-generational biological experiment in human germline modification? The regulating body in charge isn’t exactly sure.
Prenatal DNA Test Patent Invalid, U.S. Appeals Court Saysby Andrew ChungReutersJune 12th, 2015The appeals court said the DNA's presence in the blood fell under the U.S. Supreme Court's rule against patenting natural phenomena.
California Stem Cell Agency Symposium: 'Vague Fears' vs. Potential Genetic Alteration of Human Race[Quotes CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by David JensenCalifornia Stem Cell ReportJune 11th, 2015California’s $3 billion stem cell agency has called a high-level meeting for next fall to examine a "red-hot" issue that many researchers say could lead to alteration of the human race.
The Pentagon’s Gamble on Brain Implants, Bionic Limbs and Combat Exoskeletons by Sara ReardonNature NewsJune 10th, 2015DARPA is making a big push into biological research — but some scientists question whether its high-risk approach can work.
U.S. Bioweapons Research: Are Anthrax Lab Accidents All We Have to Fear?by Gwen D’Arcangelis, Biopolitical Times guest contributorJune 10th, 2015Mishaps involving loss or release of bacteria, viruses, and toxins reported by U.S. laboratories to the Centers for Disease Control number more than 200 incidents per year.
China's Big Biotech Bet Starting to Pay Offby Alexandra Harney and Ben HirschlerReutersJune 9th, 2015Overall funding for research and development more than quadrupled to $191 billion in 2005-13, allowing China to jump quickly on new technologies, often first developed elsewhere.
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