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Science, Technology & Society at Bar-Ilan University

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Making Worlds: Historical, Philosophical and Social Aspects of Biotechnology (29897) | Dr. Noah Efron

 In 1980, the US Supreme Court ruled that General Electric could patent an oil-digesting bacterium, allowing for the first time that organic life could be a human invention rather than a “product of nature.” Since then, the capacities of scientists to jigger and engineer new forms of life have grown enormously, and such bioengineering has become routine. The impacts of these increased capacities have been varied, raising new challenges in law, economics, industry and more, as well as raising a host of ethical questions. In this seminar we will examine the history of the introduction of the engineering ethos into the life sciences (which stretches back longer than is often assumed). We will then consider the social and philosophical implications of biotechnology, with special emphasis on the changes in the structure of contemporary agriculture, wrought by plant and seed engineering of the sort advanced by multinational corporations such as Monsanto.