Book Review: “Biotechnology Unglued: Science, Society and Social Cohesion”

In Biotechnology Unglued, Michael D. Mehta and an interdisciplinary team of experts explore “how advances in agricultural, medical, and forensic biotechnology may threaten the social cohesiveness of different kinds of communities and at different scales”. The editor begins by discussing social cohesion and argue that a more cohesive society is better able to adjust to change, and can either minimize injustice or entrench the conditions that enable injustice. The authors explore how biotechnologies disrupt or “unglue” less cohesive communities, while socially cohesive communities stand to gain from new biotechnologies. The authors discuss biotechnologies in different contexts, such as the variegated  impacts of genetically-modified agriculture on small- and large-scale farms, on communities in developing countries with low social cohesion, or the available state responses to genetically-modified foods in highly cohesive European societies in comparison to the American situation. The context and experience for the introduction and application of  biotechnology strategies in health, in the criminal justice system and in academia are also discussed. The book is written in accessible language and it is appropriate for scholars or professionals in the the arts and sciences. It provides an engaging, thoughtful and practical analysis that breaks from traditional criticisms of biotechnology. However, it neglects crucial issues in biotechnology andsocial cohesion such as intellectual property rights, indigenous peoples and knowledge, disability, and how biotechnology policies and strategies are implicated in the controversial subject of gene therapy.

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Oguamanam, Chidi, Book Review – Biotechnology Unglued: Science, Society and Social Cohesion (2005). 4:2 Canadian Journal of Law and Technology 147-151, 2005.

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