From Precaution to Peril: Public Relations Across Forty Years of Genetic Engineering

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Abstract

The Asilomar conference on genetic engineering in 1975 has long been pointed to by scientists as a model for internal regulation and public engagement. In 2015, the organizers of the International Summit on Human Gene Editing in Washington, DC looked to Asilomar as they sought to address the implications of the new CRISPR gene editing technique. Like at Asilomar, the conveners chose to limit the discussion to a narrow set of potential CRISPR applications, involving inheritable human genome editing. The adoption by scientists in 2015 of an Asilomar-like script for discussing genetic engineering offers historians the opportunity to analyze the adjustments that have been made since 1975, and to identify the blind spots that remain in public engagement. Scientists did take important lessons from the fallout of their limited engagement with public concerns at Asilomar. Nonetheless, the scientific community has continued to overlook some of the longstanding public concerns about genetic engineering, in particular the broad and often covert genetic modification of food products.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)218-222
Number of pages5
JournalEndeavour
Volume40
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2016

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History and Philosophy of Science

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