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About Environmentalism & Human Biotechnology


Environmentalists bring to the politics of human biotechnologies their long experience of the need for caution in the face of powerful new technologies, and for responsible social governance of technological innovation.

Environmentalists pioneered the precautionary principle, which counsels that the foreseeable consequences of new technologies should be evaluated in advance of their development and use, and that the burden of demonstrating their safety lies with their advocates and beneficiaries. Environmentalists also draw attention to the need for government to regulate markets in order to ensure public health and well-being.

Environmentalists' appreciation for appropriate technology and understanding that technical fixes are often inappropriate for social problems also hold important insights for evaluating human biotechnologies. Which biomedical, reproductive, and genetic applications of are worthy of support when measured against the principles of social justice, the common good, and the public interest? Which should we forgo? Which pose novel moral and political risks that require careful oversight and regulation?



"Jurassic World" and the Dinosaurs at the USDAby Rachel SmolkerTruthoutJune 22nd, 2015The regulations of the US Department of Agriculture are in desperate need of an overhaul if they are to protect the public from the derailing of billions of years of evolution for the purpose of corporate profit-making.
Will Pope Francis’s Climate Message Break Through Where Others Have Failed?by Marianne LavelleScienceJune 18th, 2015The letter—184 pages long in its English version—also goes far beyond climate issues, touching on biodiversity conservation, genetically modified crops, and other issues.
CRISPR, The Disruptorby Heidi LedfordNature NewsJune 3rd, 2015A powerful gene-editing technology is the biggest game changer to hit biology since PCR. But with its huge potential come pressing concerns.
Reframing "De-extinction" by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesMay 28th, 2015Beth Shapiro is advocating for a new definition of "de-extinction" that stresses the ecological niche over genetic identity. She envisages using novel creatures to change entire ecologies.
Regulate Gene Editing in Wild Animalsby Jeantine LunshofNature World ViewMay 12th, 2015Unless properly regulated and contained, this research has the potential to rapidly alter ecosystems in irreversible and damaging ways.
DIY Bio-Engineering: Disrupting Democracyby Colleen CordesBiopolitical Times guest contributorMay 1st, 2015The Do-It-Yourself synthetic biology movement (or, DIY synbio) is not advocating "citizen science," let alone "democratizing science." It's not about science or democracy.
The Next Manhattan Projectby Patrick TuckerThe AtlanticApril 7th, 2015Anticipating cutting-edge scientific research before it happens may be key to protecting against bioterrorism.
Genes Tell Only Part of the Storyby Abigail ZugerThe New York TimesFebruary 16th, 2015Genes are seldom the whole story behind illness, and are possibly not even the sternest of the medical fates that control us.
Of Clocks and Mammoths: The Pitch for De-Extinctionby George Estreich, Biopolitical Times guest contributorFebruary 9th, 2015De-extinction raises a host of questions: ethical, practical, philosophical. But for advocates, there’s a rhetorical question as well: How do you persuade a lay audience to support the project?
Scientists Develop Technique Aimed at Preventing Spread of Bio-Engineered Organismsby Andrew PollackThe New York TimesJanuary 21st, 2015Could genetically modified bacteria escape from a laboratory or fermentation tank and cause disease or ecological destruction? Two groups of scientists hope to use synthetic biology to prevent it from happening.
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