Looking back, looking beyond: revisiting the ethics of genome generation
This paper will explore some of the ethical imperatives that have shaped strategic and policy frameworks for the use of new genetic technologies and how these play a role in shaping the nature of research and changing attitudes; with an attempt to conceptualize some theories of genetic determinism. I analyse why there is a need to put bioethical principles within a theoretical framework in the context of new technologies, and how, by doing so, their practical applications for agriculture, environment medicine and health care can be legitimized.
There are several theories in favour of and against the use of genetic technologies that focus on genes and their role in our existence. In particular the theory of geneticisation is commonly debated. It highlights the conflicting interests of science, society and industry in harnessing genetic knowledge when the use of such knowledge could challenge ethical principles. Critics call it a ‘reductionist’ approach, based on arguments that are narrowed down to genes, often ignoring other factors including biological, social and moral ones. A parallel theory is that there is something special about genes, and it is this “genetic exceptionalism” that creates hopes and myths. Either way, the challenging task is to develop a common ground for understanding the importance of ethical sensitivities.
As research agendas become more complex, ethical paradigms will need to be more influential. New principles are needed to answer the complexities of ethical issues as complex technologies develop. This paper reflects on global ethical principles and the tensions between ethical principles in legitimizing genetic technologies at the social and governance level.