Laws of Containment
DOI link for Laws of Containment
Laws of Containment book
Recent advances in genetic engineering techniques, particularly those associated with CRISPR, promise extraordinary new powers to manipulate cells, organisms, and ecosystems. It is widely assumed that new biotechnologies generated through these techniques will ultimately exit the laboratory and inhabit bodies, industrial systems and ecosystems. Corollary to the presumption of release is the necessity to render the techniques and products of bioengineering governable. Anxieties about risk and safety at the advent of recombinant DNA in the 1970s were allayed by the promise of containment: that the environment of the laboratory and the techniques employed therein would guarantee that its products could not escape into the wider world. One of the key innovations of that period was the idea of biological containment—of engineering living systems to be dependent upon laboratory conditions, such that were they to escape that environment, they could not survive. This chapter explores how the role of the idea of biological containment in governance of the biosciences, how it is deployed to narrow constructions of risk and circumscribe the scope of deliberation, and how it simultaneously is underwritten by and underwrites the notion that biological life is thoroughly controllable, and thus governable.