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Biotechnology and Society

An Introduction

With Biotechnology and Society, Hallam Stevens offers an up-to-date primer to help us understand the interactions of biotechnology and society and the debates, controversies, fears, and hopes that have shaped how we think about bodies, organisms, and life in the twenty-first century. Stevens addresses such topics as genetically modified foods, cloning, and stem cells; genetic testing and the potential for discrimination; fears of (and, in some cases, hopes for) designer babies; personal genomics; biosecurity; and biotech art. Taken as a whole, the book presents a clear, authoritative picture of the relationship between biotechnology and society today, and how our conceptions (and misconceptions) of it could shape future developments. It is an essential volume for students and scholars working with biotechnology, while still being accessible to the general reader interested in the truth behind breathless media accounts about biotech’s promise and perils.

Read the introduction.

352 pages | 28 halftones, 2 line drawings, 3 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2016

Biological Sciences: Microbiology

History: History of Technology

History of Science



“Stevens’s whirlwind tour of bioworlds past and present becomes the proverbial tour de force by managing to make meaningful stays almost everywhere in between—Bt corn, designer babies, GMOs, Henrietta Lacks, patenting, plasticity, stem cells, terrorism by virus, wearable technologies, and more. At each stop, we’re also expertly guided to scholarship that can push readers further into this fascinating but challenging terrain. Biotechnology and Society is both authoritative and friendly, and it will be eagerly inserted into syllabi for teachers everywhere who are generating a fresh population of historically grounded, scientifically informed,  and politically savvy students capable of critically questioning their way into our collective biofuture.”

Mike Fortun, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

“Written in a clear and accessible style, Biotechnology and Society will be an important text for classes devoted to biotech, science, and technology studies, as a primer for scholars just moving into the subject area and for the intellectual community interested in the variety of different perspectives that Stevens collects together.”

Nathan Crowe, University of North Carolina Wilmington

"The main strength of the book is its broad coverage of developments concerning biotechnology...Topics covered include the debates over owning and patenting life, genetically modified foods, eugenics, the human genome project, genetic testing, assisted reproductive technologies, stem cells, designer babies, and bioterrorism. Refreshingly, there’s also a section on biotechnology and art. In all of these areas the author raises interesting questions of how scientific and technical developments in biotechnology engage important social and cultural issues, such as the economic and political divide between the rich and the poor, racial discrimination, privacy, and a new type of colonialism."

Technology and Culture

Table of Contents

Part I: The Limits of Biotechnology
Chapter 1: What Is Biotechnology?
Chapter 2: The Long History of Biotechnology

Part II: Genetic Engineering
Chapter 3: Inventing Genetic Engineering
Chapter 4: Recombinant DNA Debates

Part III: Owning Life
Chapter 5: Biotechnology and Business
Chapter 6: Patenting Life

Part IV: Genetically Modified Foods
Chapter 7: Risk, Regulation, and Our Food
Chapter 8: The Economics of Eating

Part V: The Boundaries of Bodily Life
Chapter 9: Owning Part of You
Chapter 10: Freezing, Banking, Crossing

Part VI: Mapping Genes, Making Society
Chapter 11: Eugenics
Chapter 12: The Human Genome Project

Part VII: Genetic Testing, Discrimination, and Bioethics
Chapter 13: Genetic Testing, Disability, and Discrimination
Chapter 14: Bioethics and Medicine

Part VIII: Virgin Births
Chapter 15: From the Pill to IVF
Chapter 16: Cloning

Part IX: Re-routing Life
Chapter 17: Stem Cells
Chapter 18: Designer Babies

Part X: Minding Your Own Biological Business
Chapter 19: Drugs and Designer Bodies
Chapter 20: Personal Genomics

Part XI: Biotechnology and Diversity
Chapter 21: Biotechnology and Race
Chapter 22: Bioprospecting and Biocolonialism

Part XII: Biological Futures
Chapter 23: Synthetic Biology and Bioterrorism
Chapter 24: Biotechnology and Art

Conclusion: Eternal Life and the Posthuman Future


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