Biotechnology Unzipped:Promises and Realities
Joseph Henry Press (JHP)
The views expressed in this book are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Academies.
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Chapter 7 Ethical Issues
Should we, or shouldn't we? Ethical questions deal with the effects our actions (or inactions) have on the world around us. If something is harmful, we shouldn't do it. A simple enough guideline in theory, but one that's not very useful when the consequences of an activity aren't yet clear, or when its effects can be both harmful and helpful. Biotechnology falls into this ambiguous camp. Most differences of opinion between supporters and opponents of genetic manipulation come down to different interpretations of the balance between risks and benefits.
Typical concerns can be divided into a number of areas, ranging from biotechnology's effects on the environment and human health to impacts on social and economic conditions and religious and moral values (see the following page). Some issues arise specifically from the nature of the technology, while others, such as the exploitation of poor nations' resources by rich ones, are part of an existing dilemma.
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Consensus Study Reports published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine document the evidence-based consensus on the study’s statement of task by an authoring committee of experts. Reports typically include findings, conclusions, and recommendations based on information gathered by the committee and the committee’s deliberations. Each report has been subjected to a rigorous and independent peer-review process and it represents the position of the National Academies on the statement of task.