Emerging biotechnologies: technology, choice and the public good

Biotechnologies are significant in many aspects of life, from food and energy production to medicine, industry, and economic development.

This report explores the ethical issues and challenges raised by emerging biotechnologies and sets out a ‘public ethics’ approach to help guide improved practice in policy making, research and regulation.

Key recommendations

  • Policies for research

    There should be a clearly defined, written and published Governmental research policy against which public research policies (e.g. those of Government departments and funding bodies) can be assessed

  • Public perspectives

    When framing science policy through societal challenges, a ‘public ethics’ approach should be taken to avoid overemphasis on technological rather than social solutions to problems with substantial social dimensions

  • Policy coordination

    Consideration should be given to bringing Government research policy and funding bodies under a senior minister free from departmental responsibilities

  • Research and innovation policy

    Biotechnology policy should include consideration of diverse bodies of evidence rather than privileging a single, quantitative frame of evaluation (such as economic costs and benefits)

  • The biotechnology wager

    Commitments to particular biotechnology pathways should be evaluated not only in terms of their anticipated impacts but also by comparison to possible alternative pathways

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Nuffield Council on Bioethics
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