We are in the
early stages of a major revolution in life sciences and biotechnology
that will impact every aspect of our society. The major benefits on
the horizon will only be realized if society accepts biotechnology
and resulting products as ethical and safe.
Over the past 12 years, I have conducted research on the social acceptance
of biotechnology. On one hand, consumers want to know whats
in it for them. On the other, they want to know that credible institutions
are carefully considering what society stands to gain or lose from
new developments. One reaction is to ban certain areas of scientific
research. Just as troubling would be to let the market sort out the
winners from the losers in the usual fashion. We need a middle path
to biotechnological development.
have played a major role in the development and promotion of science
and technology, we also have an obligation to help society understand
and manage the changes that arise from biotechnology and genomics.
We must ensure that our knowledge and tools are used ethically and
These issues require the full range of disciplines within the university.
A significant expansion of social science research will be needed
to elucidate the full range of views from our complex global society.
Such research will also shed light on the information gaps that
scientists must bridge when trying to talk with consumers. The impact
of such an integrated approach will be enhanced public understanding
of, trust in, and support for our scientific institutions. The goal
of the newly formed Center for Biotechnology in Global Society (CBIGS)
at NC State is to ensure that public and private decisions about
biotechnology are based on accurate, timely and relevant information.
Interdisciplinary research is underway to meet this goal. The center
is uniquely positioned to anticipate and address issues such as
those related to bioethics, global trade, food safety, and biodiversity.
With a holistic focus on the full range of biotechnology applications,
we hope to provide societal leadership as we enter the Century of
For more information,