Tag: genetic engineering

Bioethics News

Do We Need an International Body to Regulate Genetic Engineering?

Imagine a scenario, perhaps a few years from now, in which Canada decides to release thousands of mosquitoes genetically modified to fight the spread of a devastating mosquito-borne illness. While Canada has deemed these lab-made mosquitoes ethical, legal and safe for both humans and the environment, the US has not. Months later, by accident and circumstance, the engineered skeeters show up across the border

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Why the Patent Battle over CRISPR Matters (and Why It Doesn’t)

January 10, 2017

(Gizmodo) – By the time a panel of judges at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office gets around to deciding who owns the biggest biotechnology innovation of the century, CRISPR-Cas9 may have already lost its heavyweight title as the most precise tool for genetic engineering. In the bitter patent battle between the Broad Institute and U.C. Berkeley that reached a courtroom climax last month, both institutions are duking it out for the right to claim that they invented CRISPR-Cas9, along with the right to reap millions and millions of dollars for licensing their discovery.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Role of genetic engineering in European agriculture

A study about agriculture genetic engineering proves that it is the first cause of the improvement of production and criticises politicians attitudes

Criticises the attitude of politicians, on not recognising the value of new farming technologies

The scientific advisor HFFA Research GmbH has published a study entitled “ The economic, social and environmental value of plantbreeding in the European Union” on the role of genetic improvement in the European farming sector. The Report, which criticises the attitude of politicians, on not recognising the value of new farming technologies (agriculture genetic engineering), agriculure wheatconcludes that genetic advances have allowed production of European crops to be increased up to 74% in the last 15 years. According to its authors, the increased production derived from genetic advances has helped to stabilise the markets, reduce price volatility and increase the world food supply. They are also responsible for increasing the European GNP by 14 billion Euros. It has also managed to slow the expansion of land destined for agriculture, preserving 19 million hectares that had been destined for farming without these technological advances. It has also prevented the emission of 3.4 million tonnes of CO2 by limiting land use change.

Photo: Cenex

La entrada Role of genetic engineering in European agriculture aparece primero en Observatorio de Bioética, UCV.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Role of genetic engineering in European agriculture

A study about agriculture genetic engineering proves that it is the first cause of the improvement of production and criticises politicians attitudes

Criticises the attitude of politicians, on not recognising the value of new farming technologies

The scientific advisor HFFA Research GmbH has published a study entitled “ The economic, social and environmental value of plantbreeding in the European Union” on the role of genetic improvement in the European farming sector. The Report, which criticises the attitude of politicians, on not recognising the value of new farming technologies (agriculture genetic engineering), agriculure wheatconcludes that genetic advances have allowed production of European crops to be increased up to 74% in the last 15 years. According to its authors, the increased production derived from genetic advances has helped to stabilise the markets, reduce price volatility and increase the world food supply. They are also responsible for increasing the European GNP by 14 billion Euros. It has also managed to slow the expansion of land destined for agriculture, preserving 19 million hectares that had been destined for farming without these technological advances. It has also prevented the emission of 3.4 million tonnes of CO2 by limiting land use change.

Photo: Cenex

La entrada Role of genetic engineering in European agriculture aparece primero en Observatorio de Bioética, UCV.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

To Fight Malaria, Scientists Try Genetic Engineering to Wipe Out Mosquitoes

(NPR) -It’s why gene drives are raising both high hopes and deep concern. Until now, scientists have generally tried to keep genetically engineered creatures from spreading their DNA — to prevent them from inadvertently damaging the natural world. But a gene drive is designed to spread — and to spread quickly. The technology is so powerful that Hammond and his colleagues are hopeful they can do something humanity has been trying to do for decades: Wipe out malaria.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

All boxes ticked, UK rolls out 3-parent embryo treatment

Government regulators in the UK have given a green light to the creation of three-parent embryos to combat mitochondrial disease.

A regulatory framework has been in place since October 2015, but clinics had been advised to wait until after the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority had considered the opinion of an expert panel.

The HFEA Chair, Sally Cheshire, praised the cautious approach taken by the government.  

“Although it is tempting to rush ahead with new treatments, the UK approach of testing public opinion, putting the issue to parliament and carefully monitoring laboratory research has proved to be the most responsible and sustainable of introducing new, cutting edge treatments into the clinic. Such an approach has allowed us to balance innovation with safety, maintaining public trust as we go.”

Clinics must apply for permission to offer mitochondrial donation to patients. The HFEA will first assess a clinic’s suitability, looking at existing staff expertise, skill and experience at the clinic, as well as its equipment and general environment and then grant permission on a case by case basis to treat individual patients.

A team at Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle University will probably be the first group to be granted a licence. It hopes to help 25 couples every year. The government health service will fund the treatment for the first trial of three-person IVF, as long as couples agree to participate in a long-term follow up of their children.

The media in the UK was jubilant, with The Independent commenting that it was “the best possible news for many families this Christmas.”

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Xenobiology and environment

PDF-logoSynthetic biology and xenobiology could be great tools for improving the environment, but there must be a balance in which the pursuit of benefits for humans is combined with respect for nature and its laws.

On 15th May 2015, Pope Francis published his encyclical Laudato si, in which he gave his views on the problem of environmental pollution that is devastating our planet, and how it affects not only nature, but ourselves, especially the most disadvantaged.

The problem of pollution, over-exploitation of resources and the global warming caused by these is being studied from different perspectives. One of these is the drive for research into new methods that can help us to obtain clean energy that will allow us to continue our development, obtain more resources for food and industry without depleting the planet, and methods for decontamination and repair of damaged ecosystems. Xenobiology could have a huge impact on all these projects in the future.

Xenobiology is a young discipline within synthetic biology that is at the forefront of some of the proposed projects. Xenobiology aims to add letters to the natural genetic alphabet to be able to obtain new words, and to write a story different the one told to us by nature. In the words of Floyd E. Romesberg, one of the principal investigators in the expansion of the genetic alphabet: “If you’re given more letters, you can invent new words, you can find new ways to use those words and you can probably tell more interesting stories” (Callaway, 2014).

A transformation of biology such as that envisaged by xenobiology still presents risks and certain ethical questions, but at the same time, it represents a new way to overcome our environmental problems.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Beyond Miracles: How Traditional Chinese Medicine Establishes Professional Legitimacy in Post-colonial Macau by Loretta I.T. Lou

[Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article appeared in Imponderabilia: The International Student Anthropology Journal (2014). This piece is updated with new data and photos collected between 2015 and 2016.]

In Search of Reclusive Doctors (xunzhao yin shi yishu) was the first Chinese TV documentary about medical miracles “made” by doctors of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). When it was first broadcasted in 2001, it evoked great public interest in the Pearl River Delta region. In exalting the Chinese doctors’ miraculous power to save people on their deathbeds, the documentary paradoxically placed great emphasis on the scientific validity of TCM and folk medicine. In line with this, Mei Zhan’s ethnographic study of TCM doctors in Shanghai and San Francisco also found that the legitimacy of traditional Chinese medicine is built upon its ability to treat difficult cases (Zhan 2001:454). She argues that TCM doctors have used “miracle-making” to “craft a niche for traditional Chinese medicine within a biomedicine-centered health care system. The everyday practice and discourse of traditional Chinese medicine has come to be a site for the ‘production of the extraordinary’” (Ibid).

In an environment where TCM is in fierce competition with biomedicine, it is understandable that some TCM practitioners feel they have to establish their legitimacy through miracle-making. However, my research in Macau suggests a different story. A former colony of Portugal (1557-1999), Macau was returned to the People’s Republic of China in 1999 and is now a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the PRC. Although Macau had the first Western-style hospital in Asia, it was not until 1984 when the Macau-Portuguese government finally reformed its health care system and established a public health network composed of a government hospital and a dozens of community health centers.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Perspectives in learning; Incorporating discussion materials and activities on ethics into science curriculum.

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues has released over 60 educational resources that can be used as tools to teach students, researchers, clinicians, and other professionals to recognize and address ethical aspects of their work and understand how deliberation can inform ethical decision-making. These resources draw from the Bioethics Commission’s reports, and while all reports produced to date have been topic-specific, bioethics education and improving bioethics literacy has been a constant thread throughout the Bioethics Commission’s work.

The Commission’s most recent report, Bioethics for Every Generation, outlines a variety of models that can be used to teach ethics, and emphasizes that ethics education is about preparing students how to think ethically, rather than what to think. Bioethics for Every Generation also emphasizes that ethical questions and topics can be incorporated into existing courses, such as biology, chemistry, social studies and history courses, among others.

Frank Strona, the Bioethics Commission’s Senior Communications Analyst and Adjunct Faculty with National University’s Department of Health Sciences recently had an opportunity to sit down and interview Steven Kessler, Instructor of Biology and Microbiology at Santa Rosa Junior College in Petaluma, CA and former Visiting Fellow with the Bioethics Commission, discusses how incorporating bioethics into his science curriculum has affected his students and his work as a science educator.

FRANK STRONA: Tell us about how you have used bioethics to enhance traditional science education.

STEVEN KESSLER:  I incorporate bioethical issues into my traditional science classes in a number of ways.  The most satisfying way is to spend an entire class period delving deeply into one or two (if they are related) issues. 

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Will Donald Trump make bioethics great again?

Donald Trump was elected President of the United States this week on a platform of “change”, but it’s unlikely that bioethics figures prominently in his agenda. No remotely bioethical issues are listed in the 100-day plan Trump’s campaign released in October, “Donald Trump’s Contract With The American Voter.” We have to read the tea leaves, and like most tea cups, the future they tell is cloudy.

Most people working in the science, medicine and bioethics are probably unhappy with the prospect of President Trump. The American Physical Society (APS) was forced to retract a press release that urged President-elect Donald Trump to “Make America Great Again” by strengthening “scientific leadership.” One scientist tweeted “why not just go with ‘Physicists for fascism’ and be done with it?”

More measured responses came from Jonathan Moreno, of the University of Pennsylvania, and Art Caplan, of New York University’s Langone Medical Center, both scholars with enormous experience in the intersection of bioethics and politics.

Moreno points out that recent Presidents have appointed bioethics commissions to advise them on controversial issues. If Trump follows their lead, former Presidential hopeful Dr Ben Carson will probably play a role as he was a member of President George W. Bush’s commission. He is strongly pro-life, as is Vice-President-elect Mike Pence, who is in charge of the transition team. They might oppose developments in the rapidly evolving field of genetic engineering.

However, Trump is broadly opposed to government regulation, so his Administration might not want to ban research if it gave other countries a competitive edge.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.