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Debating the risks and ethics of emerging technosciences

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Controversies on emerging technosciences, such as agri-biotechnology and medical biotechnology, have been a formative aspect of the public response to technoscientific innovations for the last decades. Within these controversies, the problematization of technoscience has not always been framed in the same way. Debates on agri-biotechnological applications focus mostly on issues of risk and safety and on questions about evidence and uncertainty. In contrast, debates on medical biotechnologies center primarily on differences of opinion about the ascribed ontological status of the related objects and the ethical acceptability of the technoscientific interventions. The first controversy can be described as mainly risk-focused, the second controversy as mainly ethically framed. These two different modes of framing agri-biotechnology and medical biotechnology are compared and discussed, addressing public and regulatory discourse, the related polity systems and modes of governance. Empirical examples stem from Germany and Great Britain.
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Keywords: agri-biotechnology; discourse; ethics; frame analysis; governance; medical biotechnology; risk

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Institute of Technology Assessment, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna, Austria

Publication date: 2009-03-01

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