11 April 2011
ByAppeared in BioNews 603
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has begun a broad project exploring how legislators and members of the public respond to emerging biotechnologies. Calling for opinions and evidence, the Council has begun a preliminary consultation that seeks to identify common social, ethical, legal and policy issues raised by biotechnological developments spanning from IVF to nanotechnology.
'Vastly different public responses to biotechnologies can be seen between different countries or cultures. For example, stem cell research is widely accepted in the UK, while this has been controversial in the USA. It is the other way around for genetically modified crops', said Professor Michael Moran of the University of Manchester, who is leading the project. 'We want to explore the reasons for this with a view to providing practical guidance for policy makers in future', he said.
Outlining the range of questions the team hopes to address, Professor Moran included: 'What principles should decision makers apply to emerging biotechnologies? What tools and levers might they use to secure benefits and minimise the risks? And what role should public engagement activities play?'.
The Council said such a study is deemed particularly relevant as public opinion is increasingly being courted by legislators when putting together measures to regulate research, application or access to developing biotechnology. It plans also to conduct face-to-face meetings with stakeholders before compiling the final report.
The project is being conducted by a team of legal, philosophical, industrial, scientific and public engagement experts assembled in January. The deadline for responses is 15 June 2011 and the final report will be published in 2012.