Born in the 1970s, the field of biotechnology has begun to revolutionize our daily lives in fundamental ways. As it has promised benefits for health, food, the environment, and society, however, it has also raised difficult challenges for policymakers across the world. Should those with genetic conditions be covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act? Should governments consider the ecological implications of genetic engineering, and if so, how? To what extent should members of the World Trade Organization be allowed to develop their own approaches to regulating biotechnology? How might genetics research reshape policies based on racial categorization? In this course, we will explore the policy challenges raised by new genetic and bio- technologies, examine how they are being resolved, and assess alternative approaches. We will also investigate how politics and policy related to biotechnology are shaping food, health, environmental, and criminal justice policymaking more generally.
Students will learn the following:
• Major issues of controversy in genetics and biotechnology across the world;
• Major stakeholders in the politics of genetics and biotechnology across the world;
• Laws and regulatory frameworks that have been developed to deal with the new science and technology;
• How to engage in ongoing debates over biotechnology, both in the US and elsewhere;
• Mechanisms for public participation in science and technology that have been devised to deal with these issues; and
• Tools to assess new developments and articulate policy positions to influence directions of research and innovation.
No scientific background is required. Topics include: international development and genetically modified organisms; how advances in genetics are influencing civil liberties; the politics of patents on genes, stem cells, and plants; the ethics and politics of personalized medicine; the ecological implications of agricultural biotechnology; the history of biotechnology policy; the use of biotechnology in criminal justice; and genetics and biotechnology policy in comparative and international perspective. Students will prepare short memos, actively participate in classroom discussions and debates, and prepare a term paper.