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Can a discussion of the ethical, legal, and social implications of genetics and biotechnology be of use in sub-Saharan Africa?

Outram, S

January 2008

Abstract

Drawing upon interviews and a follow-up workshop with natural scientists, social scientists, science journalists, and specialists in science communication; the following paper seeks to make the case that having a having a discussion of the ethical, legal, and social implications of genetics and biotechnology can be of considerable benefit to a wide range of actors on the African continent. In short, it will be argued that such discussion should be seen as integral to the development of genetics and biotechnology in Africa; rather than either a luxury that Africa cannot afford, or an obstacle to technological progress. In turn, it will be argued that this discussion is currently held only in isolated pockets '“ largely within the confines of academia. This isolation stems partially from internal mechanisms related partially to the low profile given to inter-disciplinary research '“partially as a result of general breakdown in communication channels between scientists, the media, and the general public. Many of the issues discussed in the following paper are relevant to both sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere. However, it is argued that in the context of the difficulties of creating and sustaining an academic, media, and public discussion of genetics and biotechnology, sub-Saharan Africa has particular requirements and particular difficulties in meeting these requirements.

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