The Big Issues Category 3 Speculative Fears And The Consumer Culture

Though many of the issues which are associated with the commercialization process can probably be (and should be) addressed through thoughtful regulatory policy, it seems doubtful that the biggest issues, those issues which I believe are driving the broader fears which surround the "genetic revolution", can be confronted through traditional regulatory mechanisms. Specifically, I am speaking of the speculation that the commercialization process will facilitate a new "laissez faire eugenics" (Kitcher), create a market driven and defined view of human normalcy (Testart, 304), and further stigmatize of those with disabilities. Justifiably or not, many of these concerns are rooted in the eugenic history of genetic technology (King, 1,6, Tibbetts, Al, Caulfield and Robertson, 59), in an inaccurate notion of genetic determinism (McGee) and in an almost instinctive fear of "genetic engineering" technologies—as evidenced by the reaction to the announcement of Dolly the lamb (Time, Moysa, A3). However, I will argue that the forces which are perpetuating many of these concerns are also intertwined in the fabric of a broader socio-political trend—that is, our belief in the market economy and the social values that necessarily accompany it.4

Obviously, this is not a new idea. Many commentators have expressed similar concerns about the prospect of combining human genetics and capitalist forces (Cuttle, 531, Testart, 304, Roy, Williams and Dickens, Leopold, 1993, Burstyn, 1993). In order for there to be a demand for genetic technologies there must be a perceived need for the service—be it for an individual genetic test, prenatal diagnosis or a screening program. And the creation of this need by the biotech industry may, at least theoretically, cause individuals to re-evaluate the notion of disease, disability and normalcy. The wider the definition of disease and the narrower the view of normalcy the bigger the "genetics market". However, what has not been considered in any depth, and what I hope to explore briefly below, is whether we can realistically do anything about this speculative concern.

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