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date: 28 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter serves three objectives. First, it provides a narrative account of key developments in core bioengineering technologies. Second, it critically interrogates the emergence and evolution of regulatory regimes aimed at responding to perceived risks associated with these technological capabilities, highlighting how these have primarily relied on establishing ‘soft’ forms of control rather than hard edged legal frameworks backed by coercive sanctions, largely in the form of self-regulation by the scientific research community (with some notification provisions to keep the relevant government informed). Third, it provides an analysis of this regulatory evolution, focusing on the narrow construction of risk, and flagging up the possibility of alternative framings, which might have generated more inclusive and deliberative approaches to standard-setting and oversight.

Keywords: recombinant DNA, genetically modified organisms, biosafety, biosecurity, select agents, potentially pandemic pathogens, CRISPR, synthetic biology, dual use research of concern

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