Synthetic Biology

Synthetic Biology and Social Issues

Joyce Tait

University of Edinburgh, UK


Research interests

Joyce has an interdisciplinary background in natural and social sciences including risk assessment and regulation, policy analysis, technology management, strategic and operational decision making in companies and public bodies.


Websites: University of Edinburgh & Innongen Blog





Speaker abstract

There have been some worrying signs recently of a ramping up of NGO activity against synthetic biology, particularly in the USA, and this may have been partly responsible for stimulating the recent upsurge of anti-GM activity targeting Rothamsted Research. Despite the title of this session, based on over 20 years of socio-economic research, I would say that ‘ethics’ is not the problem and ‘engagement’ is not the answer. This presentation will discuss the potential similarities in the attitudes of some activists and NGOs to GM crops and to synthetic biology, particularly the need to identify the extent to which opposition is ideologically motivated. It will also point to some interesting differences. A more difficult question is how to deal with ideologically motivated opposition in a way that does not allow extremists to take a lead in framing synthetic biology in the minds of uncommitted citizens.

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