Emerging biotechnologies: technology, choice and the public good


Published 13/12/2012

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

Biotechnologies are significant in many aspects of life including food, energy, medicine, and business; they therefore present some of the most important sources of transformation and disruption in the world today.

In practice, only a fraction of the biotechnologies that are possible can ever be developed. Those that are prioritised depend not only on the societal benefits they are expected to deliver, but also on chance, circumstance and the influence of vested interests and power.

This report is intended to stimulate thinking in a variety of contexts in which the conditions that influence the development of biotechnologies are set (research, policy, regulation and business), and about how those contexts interact. It falls broadly into two parts:

  • Part 1 identifies and examines common features of emerging biotechnologies, and develops an ethical approach to understanding and responding to these.
  • Part 2 examines how these features of emerging biotechnologies generate difficulties within the different contexts of research, policy, regulation and business that in turn shape their emergence. It suggests ways in which the ethical approach developed in the first part might facilitate and guide the interaction of these contexts in order to improve the ethical quality of biotechnology governance.

The report was produced by an interdisciplinary expert Working Party and focuses mainly on the UK environment. In reaching its conclusions, the Working Party consulted a wide range of people, including members of the public and those involved in research, public engagement, bus