The quiet before the storm: anticipating developments in synthetic biology

Poiesis and Praxis 7 (3):151-168 (2010)
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Synthetic biology aims at designing biological systems, at building ‘living machines’. The emergence of synthetic biology has reignited the cycle of public debate. The old biotechnology debate is being reiterated and the controversies are deepened. The societal debate follows the technological hype cycle. A new technology with a high visibility and high expectations also raises high controversies. For synthetic biology, this hype is currently near its peak and the first signs of disillusionment are getting visible. In policy development, on the other hand, synthetic biology is in the early stages. Governments examine the need for adaptations to existing regulatory frameworks. There is a gap between the visibility of the technological developments and policy formulation. This gap is crucial for technology assessment: while the hype in public attention is over, essential policy steps are taken. In order to close this gap, technology assessment needs to facilitate the societal–ethical debate when media attention, and thus the visibility of the technological developments, declines



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Frans Brom
Utrecht University

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