A leading bioethicist offers critical insights into the scientific, ethical, and political implications of human genome editing.
Designer babies, once found only in science fiction, have become a reality. We are entering a new era of human evolution with the advent of a technology called CRISPR, which allows scientists to modify our genes. Although CRISPR shows great promise for therapeutic use, it raises thorny ethical, legal, political, and societal concerns because it can be used to make permanent changes to future generations. What if changes intended for the good turn out to have unforeseen negative effects? What if the divide between the haves and have-nots widens as a result? Who decides whether we genetically modify human beings and, if so, how?
Françoise Baylis insists that we must all have a role in determining our future as a species. The scientists who develop and use genome-editing tools should not be the only ones making decisions about future uses of the technology. Such decisions must be the fruit of a broad societal consensus. Baylis argues that it is in our collective interest to assess and steer the development and implementation of biomedical technologies. Members of the public with different interests and diverse perspectives must be among the decision makers; only in this way can we ensure that societal concerns are taken into account and that responsible decisions are made. We must be engaged and informed, think critically, and raise our voices as we create our future together.
Sharp, rousing, timely, and thought-provoking, Altered Inheritance is essential reading. The future of humanity is in our hands.
A guide to the rapidly progressing Age of Biotechnology, Brutes or Angels provides basic information on a wide array of new technologies in the life sciences, along with the ethical issues raised by each.
With stem cell research, Dolly the cloned sheep, in vitro fertilization, age retardation, and pharmaceutical mind enhancement, humankind is now faced with decisions that it has never before had to consider. The thoughtfulness, or lack of it, that we bring to those decisions will largely determine the future character of the living world.
Brutes or Angels will facilitate informed choice making about the personal use of biotechnologies and the formulation of public policies governing their development and use. Ten biotechnologies that impact humans are considered: stem cell research, embryo selection, human genomics, gene therapies, human reproductive cloning, age retardation, cognition enhancement, the engineering of nonhuman organisms, nanobiology, and synthetic biology.
With deft and assured use of metaphors, analogies, diagrams, and photographs, James T. Bradley introduces important biological principles and the basic procedures used in biotechnology. Various ethical issues--personhood, personal identity, privacy, ethnic discrimination, distributive justice, authenticity and human nature, and the significance of mortality in the human life cycle--are presented in a clear and unbiased manner. Personal reflection and group dialogue are encouraged by questions at the end of each chapter, making this book not only a general guide to better informed and nuanced thinking on these complex and challenging topics but also an appropriate text for bioethics courses in university science departments and for adult education classes.
Standing at the beginning of the twenty-first century, with burgeoning abilities to enhance and even create life in ways unimaginable just a few decades ago, humans have an awesome responsibility to themselves and other species. Brutes or Angelsinvites us to engage each other in meaningful dialogue by listening, gathering information, formulating thoughtful views, and remaining open to new knowledge and ethical argumentation.
“Sandel explores a paramount question of our era: how to extend the power and promise of biomedical science to overcome debility without compromising our humanity. His arguments are acute and penetrating, melding sound logic with compassion.” —Jerome Groopman, author of How Doctors Think
Breakthroughs in genetics present us with a promise and a predicament. The promise is that we will soon be able to treat and prevent a host of debilitating diseases. The predicament is that our newfound genetic knowledge may enable us to manipulate our nature—to enhance our genetic traits and those of our children. Although most people find at least some forms of genetic engineering disquieting, it is not easy to articulate why. What is wrong with re-engineering our nature?
The Case against Perfection explores these and other moral quandaries connected with the quest to perfect ourselves and our children. Michael Sandel argues that the pursuit of perfection is flawed for reasons that go beyond safety and fairness. The drive to enhance human nature through genetic technologies is objectionable because it represents a bid for mastery and dominion that fails to appreciate the gifted character of human powers and achievements. Carrying us beyond familiar terms of political discourse, this book contends that the genetic revolution will change the way philosophers discuss ethics and will force spiritual questions back onto the political agenda.
In order to grapple with the ethics of enhancement, we need to confront questions largely lost from view in the modern world. Since these questions verge on theology, modern philosophers and political theorists tend to shrink from them. But our new powers of biotechnology make these questions unavoidable. Addressing them is the task of this book, by one of America’s preeminent moral and political thinkers.
Written for general readers, teachers, journalists, and policymakers, this volume explores four controversial topics in science and technology, with commentaries from experts in such fields as sociology, religion, law, ethics, and politics:
* Antibiotics and Resistance: the science, the policy debates, and perspectives from a microbiologist, a veterinarian, and an M.D.
* Genetically Modified Maize and Gene Flow: the science of genetic modification, protecting genetic diversity, agricultural biotech vesus the environment, corporate patents versus farmers' rights
* Hormone Replacement Theory and Menopause: overview of the Women's Health Initiative, history of hormone replacement therapy, the medicalization of menopause, hormone replacement therapy and clinical trials
* Smallpox: historical and medical overview of smallpox, government policies for public health, the Emergency Health Powers Act, public resistance vs. cooperation.
Engineering the Farm offers a wide-ranging examination of the social and ethical issues surrounding the production and consumption of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), with leading thinkers and activists taking a broad theoretical approach to the subject. Topics covered include:
the historical roots of the anti-biotechnology movement
ethical issues involved in introducing genetically altered crops
questions of patenting and labeling
the "precautionary principle" and its role in the regulation of GMOs
effects of genetic modification on the world's food supply
ecological concerns and impacts on traditional varieties of domesticated crops
potential health effects of GMOs
Contributors argue that the scope, scale, and size of the present venture in crop modification is so vast and intensive that a thoroughgoing review of agricultural biotechnology must consider its global, moral, cultural, and ecological impacts as well as its effects on individual consumers. Throughout, they argue that more research is needed on genetically modified food and that consumers are entitled to specific information about how food products have been developed.
Despite its increasing role in worldwide food production, little has been written about the broader social and ethical implications of GMOs. Engineering the Farm offers a unique approach to the subject for academics, activists, and policymakers involved with questions of environmental policy, ethics, agriculture, environmental health, and related fields.
Since the mid-1990s, when the technology was first introduced, the cultivation of genetically engineered (GE) crops has grown exponentially. In the U.S. alone, adoption rates for transgenic cotton, corn, and soybeans are between 70–90%. Across the globe, 14 million farmers grow GE crops in more than twenty countries. Yet many countries are discussing and debating the use and adoption of GE technology because of concerns about their impact on the environment and human health. Now, in this comprehensive handbook, a team of international experts present the scientific basis for GE crops, placing them in the context of current agricultural systems, and examining the potential environmental risks posed by their deployment. An integrated approach to an increasingly hot and globally debated topic, the book considers the past, present, and future of GE crops, and offers an invaluable perspective for regulation and policy development.
Plant breeders have long sought technologies to extend human control over nature. Early in the twentieth century, this led some to experiment with startlingly strange tools like x-ray machines, chromosome-altering chemicals, and radioactive elements. Contemporary reports celebrated these mutation-inducing methods as ways of generating variation in plants on demand. Speeding up evolution, they imagined, would allow breeders to genetically engineer crops and flowers to order. Creating a new food crop or garden flower would soon be as straightforward as innovating any other modern industrial product.
In Evolution Made to Order, Helen Anne Curry traces the history of America’s pursuit of tools that could intervene in evolution. An immersive journey through the scientific and social worlds of midcentury genetics and plant breeding and a compelling exploration of American cultures of innovation, Evolution Made to Order provides vital historical context for current worldwide ethical and policy debates over genetic engineering.
Tucked away in Siberia, there are furry, four-legged creatures with wagging tails and floppy ears that are as docile and friendly as any lapdog. But, despite appearances, these are not dogs—they are foxes. They are the result of the most astonishing experiment in breeding ever undertaken—imagine speeding up thousands of years of evolution into a few decades. In 1959, biologists Dmitri Belyaev and Lyudmila Trut set out to do just that, by starting with a few dozen silver foxes from fox farms in the USSR and attempting to recreate the evolution of wolves into dogs in real time in order to witness the process of domestication. This is the extraordinary, untold story of this remarkable undertaking.
Most accounts of the natural evolution of wolves place it over a span of about 15,000 years, but within a decade, Belyaev and Trut’s fox breeding experiments had resulted in puppy-like foxes with floppy ears, piebald spots, and curly tails. Along with these physical changes came genetic and behavioral changes, as well. The foxes were bred using selection criteria for tameness, and with each generation, they became increasingly interested in human companionship. Trut has been there the whole time, and has been the lead scientist on this work since Belyaev’s death in 1985, and with Lee Dugatkin, biologist and science writer, she tells the story of the adventure, science, politics, and love behind it all. In How to Tame a Fox, Dugatkin and Trut take us inside this path-breaking experiment in the midst of the brutal winters of Siberia to reveal how scientific history is made and continues to be made today.
To date, fifty-six generations of foxes have been domesticated, and we continue to learn significant lessons from them about the genetic and behavioral evolution of domesticated animals. How to Tame a Fox offers an incredible tale of scientists at work, while also celebrating the deep attachments that have brought humans and animals together throughout time.
Daniel Kevles traces the study and practice of eugenics--the science of "improving" the human species by exploiting theories of heredity--from its inception in the late nineteenth century to its most recent manifestation within the field of genetic engineering. It is rich in narrative, anecdote, attention to human detail, and stories of competition among scientists who have dominated the field.
The promise of genetic engineering in the early 1970s to profoundly reshape the living world activated a variety of social interests in its future promotion and control. With public safety, gene patents, and the future of genetic research at stake, a wide range of interest groups competed for control over this powerful new technology.
In this comparative study of the development of regulatory policy for genetic engineering in the United States and the United Kingdom, Susan Wright analyzes government responses to the struggles among corporations, scientists, universities, trade unions, and public interest groups over regulating this new field. Drawing on archival materials, government records, and interviews with industry executives, politicians, scientists, trade unionists, and others on both sides of the Atlantic, Molecular Politics provides a comprehensive account of a crucial set of policy decisions and explores their implications for the political economy of science.
By combining methods from political science and the history of science, Wright advances a provocative interpretation of the evolution of genetic engineering policy and makes a major contribution to science and public policy studies.
The Western moral tradition has been profoundly influenced by attempts to ground moral convictions in an analysis of human nature, whether conceived in rational, emotional, or biological terms. This idea that nature is the ultimate standard of our actions is found in writers as different as Aristotle, Hume, Hobbes, and Darwin, as well as their modern followers. But in an age of rapid biological changes brought on by biotechnologies such as stem-cell research, gene therapy, and mood-altering drugs, can human nature still serve as a basis for our moral thinking?
This is the question explored by Richard Sherlock in Nature’s End: The Theological Meaning of the New Genetics. Sherlock contends that in light of the fact that we can now alter human nature we must find a transnatural standpoint from which to make moral judgments—that is, a theological standpoint. Current and future advances in genetic and biological science require a bold theological response, argues Sherlock, not a response based on pragmatism or arguments from nature, including natural-law arguments.
Sherlock provocatively calls for moral traditionalists to aim not so much for rational agreement as moral conversion, a “mighty change of heart.” Theology must bear witness to its deepest convictions about the meaning of human existence, he writes, and try to get people to see the world anew. Nothing less will serve to meet the deepest moral challenges let loose by the new biosciences.
Technology evolves at a dazzling speed, and nowhere more so than in the field of genetic engineering, where the possibility of directly changing the genes of one's children is quickly becoming a reality. The public is rightly concerned, but interestingly, they have not had much to say about the implications of recent advancements in human genetics.
Playing God? asks why and explores the social forces that have led to the thinning out of public debate over human genetic engineering. John H. Evans contends that the problem lies in the structure of the debate itself. Disputes over human genetic engineering concern the means for achieving assumed ends, rather than being a healthy discussion about the ends themselves. According to Evans, this change in focus occurred as the jurisdiction over the debate shifted from scientists to bioethicists, a change which itself was caused by the rise of the bureaucratic state as the authority in such matters. The implications of this timely study are twofold. Evans not only explores how decisions about the ethics of human genetic engineering are made, but also shows how the structure of the debate has led to the technological choices we now face.
Ten years after the Human Genome Project’s completion the life sciences stand in a moment of uncertainty, transition, and contestation. The postgenomic era has seen rapid shifts in research methodology, funding, scientific labor, and disciplinary structures. Postgenomics is transforming our understanding of disease and health, our environment, and the categories of race, class, and gender. At the same time, the gene retains its centrality and power in biological and popular discourse. The contributors to Postgenomics analyze these ruptures and continuities and place them in historical, social, and political context. Postgenomics, they argue, forces a rethinking of the genome itself, and opens new territory for conversations between the social sciences, humanities, and life sciences.
Contributors. Russ Altman, Rachel A. Ankeny, Catherine Bliss, John Dupré, Michael Fortun, Evelyn Fox Keller, Sabina Leonelli, Adrian Mackenzie, Margot Moinester, Aaron Panofsky, Sarah S. Richardson, Sara Shostak, Hallam Stevens
The advent of recombinant DNA technology in the 1970s was a key moment in the history of both biotechnology and the commercialization of academic research. Doogab Yi’s The Recombinant University draws us deeply into the academic community in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the technology was developed and adopted as the first major commercial technology for genetic engineering. In doing so, it reveals how research patronage, market forces, and legal developments from the late 1960s through the early 1980s influenced the evolution of the technology and reshaped the moral and scientific life of biomedical researchers.
Bay Area scientists, university administrators, and government officials were fascinated by and increasingly engaged in the economic and political opportunities associated with the privatization of academic research. Yi uncovers how the attempts made by Stanford scientists and administrators to demonstrate the relevance of academic research were increasingly mediated by capitalistic conceptions of knowledge, medical innovation, and the public interest. Their interventions resulted in legal shifts and moral realignments that encouraged the privatization of academic research for public benefit. The Recombinant University brings to life the hybrid origin story of biotechnology and the ways the academic culture of science has changed in tandem with the early commercialization of recombinant DNA technology.
In 1996 Argentina adopted genetically modified (GM) soybeans as a central part of its national development strategy. Today, Argentina is the third largest global grower and exporter of GM crops. Its soybeans—which have been modified to tolerate being sprayed with herbicides—now cover half of the country's arable land and represent a third of its total exports. While soy has brought about modernization and economic growth, it has also created tremendous social and ecological harm: rural displacement, concentration of landownership, food insecurity, deforestation, violence, and the negative health effects of toxic agrochemical exposure. In Seeds of Power Amalia Leguizamón explores why Argentines largely support GM soy despite the widespread damage it creates. She reveals how agribusiness, the state, and their allies in the media and sciences deploy narratives of economic redistribution, scientific expertise, and national identity as a way to elicit compliance among the country’s most vulnerable rural residents. In this way, Leguizamón demonstrates that GM soy operates as a tool of power to obtain consent, to legitimate injustice, and to quell potential dissent in the face of environmental and social violence.
Listen to a short interview with Robert PaarlbergHost: Chris Gondek | Producer: Heron & Crane
Heading upcountry in Africa to visit small farms is absolutely exhilarating given the dramatic beauty of big skies, red soil, and arid vistas, but eventually the two-lane tarmac narrows to rutted dirt, and the journey must continue on foot. The farmers you eventually meet are mostly women, hardworking but visibly poor. They have no improved seeds, no chemical fertilizers, no irrigation, and with their meager crops they earn less than a dollar a day. Many are malnourished.
Nearly two-thirds of Africans are employed in agriculture, yet on a per-capita basis they produce roughly 20 percent less than they did in 1970. Although modern agricultural science was the key to reducing rural poverty in Asia, modern farm science—including biotechnology—has recently been kept out of Africa.
In Starved for Science Robert Paarlberg explains why poor African farmers are denied access to productive technologies, particularly genetically engineered seeds with improved resistance to insects and drought. He traces this obstacle to the current opposition to farm science in prosperous countries. Having embraced agricultural science to become well-fed themselves, those in wealthy countries are now instructing Africans—on the most dubious grounds—not to do the same.
In a book sure to generate intense debate, Paarlberg details how this cultural turn against agricultural science among affluent societies is now being exported, inappropriately, to Africa. Those who are opposed to the use of agricultural technologies are telling African farmers that, in effect, it would be just as well for them to remain poor.
When scientists discovered transgenes in local Mexican corn varieties in 2001, their findings intensified a debate about not only the import of genetically modified (GM) maize into Mexico but also the fate of the peasantry under neoliberal globalization. While the controversy initially focused on the extent to which gene flow from transgenic to local varieties threatens maize biodiversity, anti-GM activists emphasized the cultural significance of the crop in Mexico and demanded that campesinos and consumers have a voice in the creation of GM maize and rural policies. In The Struggle for Maize, Elizabeth Fitting explores the competing claims of the GM corn debate in relation to the livelihood struggles of small-scale maize producers, migrants, and maquiladora workers from the southern Tehuacán Valley. She argues that the region’s biodiversity is affected by state policies that seek to transform campesinos into entrepreneurs and rural residents into transnational migrant laborers. While corn production and a campesino identity remain important to an older generation, younger residents have little knowledge of or interest in maize agriculture; they seek out wage labor in maquiladoras and the United States. Fitting’s ethnography illustrates how agricultural producers and their families respond creatively to economic hardship and Mexico’s “neoliberal corn regime,” which promotes market liberalization, agricultural “efficiency,” and the reduction of state services over domestic maize production and food sovereignty.
Printed in the colors of flesh and blood, VAS: An Opera in Flatland—a hybrid image-text novel—demonstrates how differing ways of imagining the body generate diverse stories of history, gender, politics, and, ultimately, the literature of who we are.
A constantly surprising, VAS combines a variety of voices, from journalism and libretto to poem and comic book. Often these voices meet in counterpoint, and the meaning of the narrative emerges from their juxtapositions, harmonies, or discords. Utilizing a wide and historical sweep of representations of the body—from pedigree charts to genetic sequences—VAS is, finally, the story of finding one's identity within the double helix of language and lineage.