Tag Archives: ethics

CRISPRcon: diverse voices debate the future of genome editing

It’s not every day that a scientific conference hosts a panel discussion including a futurist, a director of a non-governmental organization, a pastor, an environmentalist, and a pig farmer—but CRISPRcon wasn’t your typical science conference. In place of presentations about the latest scientific papers and a wall of posters, CRISPRcon provided a platform for a broader

The ethics of Alzheimer’s

Though the authors of the BSR blog don’t comment on the topic frequently, there’s an undercurrent of ethical debate to the vast majority of scientific issues. Sometimes the ethical debate is obvious, as in these recent pieces on Proposition 37. In other cases, it’s more subtle: all research needs to justify the money spent on it—money that could otherwise go to other efforts at improving the human condition. In the particular case of Alzheimer’s, the ethics of diagnosis have increasingly become critical. I want to pause for a moment from science, and think about a few of the shifting considerations of this case brings.

Alzheimer’s disease causes the slow degradation of the mental faculties, leading to dementia and death. This decline places an enormous burden on caregivers, often family members, and makes AD the third most economically expensive disease in the developed world. Because onset of the disease typically begins after age 65, it has been an increasing concern as the human lifespan lengthens. Though some are in trials, there are no known treatments that cure or even simply slow the progress of Alzheimer’s.

Science in Sacramento: Update on Prop 37

In June, I wrote that signatures had been collected for a ballot measure that would mandate the labeling of foods in California that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). As expected, residents of California will vote on the measure this November as Proposition 37. In a recent poll, likely CA voters supported the proposition two to one.  You can read the full text of the inititative here.

As noted in my previous post, California tends to set trends for the nation regarding health-related laws.  That means that the eyes of the nation are on this proposition. Mark Bittman, New York Times food columnist, wrote in favor of labeling GMO-containing food, though not everyone agrees with his analysis. Slate magazine presented the argument that GMOs could be good for the environment.