Crossing Over: Genomics in the Public Arena

Crossing Over: Genomics in the Public Arena

Crossing Over: Genomics in the Public Arena

Crossing Over: Genomics in the Public Arena


Technologies of the life sciences offer tremendous possibilities, but also numerous challenges. Crossing Over looks at the social and ethical issues around the new biology, particularly genomics and biotechnology. It examines the world of biotechnology from different perspectives, including economics, law, communications, the sciences, and bioethics. The contributors to this volume respond to questions such as: How will we ensure technologies adopted in genomics research are not just economically beneficial but also socially and environmentally sustainable? What is the impact of the media on the development of these technologies? What are the ethical implications? What governance arrangements are appropriate? How are citizens and consumers expected to participate? Crossing Overs interdisciplinary approach to the analysis of biotechnology in society will ultimately contribute to our overall understanding of this hot-button issue, and will help us make better-informed choices for the future.


Edna Einsiedel

The title of this book is drawn from a biological process involving the exchange of genetic material between chromosomes as part of the process of reproduction and inheritance. During meiosis, dna segments are exchanged as two chromosomes – one from each parent – intertwine in their dance for heredity. the resulting chromosome is different from its two starter ‘parents,’ contributing to diversity, to occasional mutations, and, in the end, to a more robust gene pool.

This notion of crossing over is the metaphor we chose as the theme for the conference we held in Kananaskis, Alberta, on 25–27 April 2003. We invited a number of participants from diverse fields and backgrounds: economics, law, communications, the sciences, and bioethics. We had people representing different sectors or interests as well – policy-makers, civil society, industry, and academia. By examining the social world of biotechnology through diverse lenses, we anticipated that our understandings of the challenges to society posed by this relatively new technology and its applications would be enriched.

While researchers in the field of the social, ethical, legal, or environmental aspects of genomics have typically focused on either biomedical issues or on agricultural applications (particularly gm food), many of the issues that underlie each set of applications are also cross-over issues. This is true of governance questions, intellectual property challenges, commercialization of innovation conundrums, and questions around policy decision-making. in presenting the issues, we have selected section theme key questions that represent these commonalities.

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