chapter  1
18 Pages

Biotechnological Inventions: The Moral Debate

The biotechnology industry is at the cutting edge of scientific research and innovation. As a scientific art and commercial process it is problematic not merely for scientists and economists but also for lawyers and the general public. Problems for research scientists include how to discover and examine the workings of nature. One of the major challenges for economists lies in learning how to cope with the growth of new industries. In this regard, the economic role of patents is, arguably, more important than ever before, and still, patent systems are only marginally influenced by economists.1 For lawyers, the fast-moving pace of biotechnology means it is necessary to keep matters under review and to provide an appropriate legislative response. In the interests of the public, the actual and potential impact of the technology, in particular in the domain of health care, agriculture and the environment, needs to be addressed more fully. In this regard, private companies hoping to develop the huge potential for commercial applications must look beyond the technology and into the future if the science is to be brought successfully to market.2 It is equally imperative to ensure that publicly funded research, where commercialized, results in adequate, and sufficient, public benefit. In terms of regulation, the rate of development of biotechnology means that situations and problems are likely to precede primary legislation and, indeed, case law.3 Because of this it is necessary to be flexible and to keep under review the development of scientific possibilities, in the context of public understanding, so that as far as possible issues are anticipated, and research and development, and legislation, are conducted with as full as possible an appreciation of the consequences.4