Rdna and risk controversies of the 1970s and 80s
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rDNA and Risk: Controversies of the 1970s and 80s. HSCI E137 Feb 23, 2011. Some of the scientific developments preceding the biotech era. Search for hereditary basis for traits and diseases (Penrose, 1940s) One gene-one enzyme hypothesis (Beadle and Tatum, 1940s)

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rDNA and Risk: Controversies of the 1970s and 80s

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Rdna and risk controversies of the 1970s and 80s

rDNA and Risk:Controversies of the 1970s and 80s

HSCI E137 Feb 23, 2011


Some of the scientific developments preceding the biotech era

Some of the scientific developmentspreceding the biotech era

  • Search for hereditary basis for traits and diseases (Penrose, 1940s)

  • One gene-one enzyme hypothesis (Beadle and Tatum, 1940s)

  • Concept of “molecular disease” (Pauling, 1949)

  • DNA as hereditary material (Hershey and Chase, 1951)

  • Structure of DNA (Watson and Crick, 1953)


Scientific developments

Scientific developments

  • The “central dogma”: DNA makes RNA makes protein (Crick, 1958)

  • Frog cloned (Gurdon, 1961)

  • Discovery of restriction enzymes (late 1960s)

  • Recombinant DNA (1973)


Krimsky s biotechnics

Krimsky’s Biotechnics

  • K’s view of technology: as contingent, not autonomous; cell-as-factory metaphor

  • K divides the history of the early biotech revolution by decade

  • Defining events in the first decade (1970s):

    • 1973: first successful recombinant DNA

    • 1974: formation of NIH RAC

    • 1975: Asilomar conference


Defining events 1970s

Defining events: 1970s

  • 1976-77: public involvement in rDNA debate

    • Cambridge City Council hearing, June 26, 1976 (video)

    • 1977: Cambridge passes rDNA law

    • 1977: Rifkin’s debut as anti-genetics activist


Rdna and risk controversies of the 1970s and 80s

Rifkin protesting

in the 1990s

Rifkin in 2009


1980s developments

1980s developments:

  • Growing commercialization of biotech: RDLPs and biopatenting policies

  • From lab containment to deliberate release

    • Field testing of ice minus (1982-1987)

    • EPA steps in as regulator

  • Risk assessment: geneticists vs. ecologists


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