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From identity politics to medicine, the DNA revolution demands a new bioethics

From the discovery of the double helix structure in 1953, to the Human Genome Project of the 1990s and early 2000s, to the Precision Medicine Initiative announced by President Barack Obama in 2015, the DNA revolution has touched almost every corner of society. While a deeper understanding of genetics offers great potential for positive social change and targeted medical treatments, it also presents complex new ethical challenges that must be confronted with care and a thorough understanding of the history of racism in science. In this Aeon interview, Alondra Nelson, dean of social science and professor of sociology and gender studies at Columbia University in New York, argues that this unique moment requires a new bioethics that takes into account ‘the full social life of DNA’.

Producer: Kellen Quinn

Interviewer: Nigel Warburton

Editor: Adam D’Arpino

2 May 2016

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