Biofutures: Owning Body Parts and Information

Robert Mitchell, Helen J. Burgess and Phillip Thurtle

From stories of cloning to regenerative tissue, from gene therapy to biotech startups, news media are replete with reports about the revolutionary potential of human tissue and genetic material. At the same time, many uses of human tissues and DNA have provoked vigorous opposition from groups representing a variety of different ethical, religious, and social justice perspectives – opposition that tends to be particularly pronounced when human tissue and genetic material become a source of commercial ownership and profit.

Biofutures: Owning Body Parts and Information is an accessible, cross-platform DVD-ROM that explores key legal, ethical, scientific, and commercial aspects of the rapidly changing world of biotechnology and bioinformatics. In both its form and its content, Biofutures represents a significant advance over existing discussions of the ethics of biocommerce.

The extensive use of interactive features provides users with evidence in a variety of media, including video interviews with specialists in the fields of genetics, law, and literary studies and with several practicing "bio-artists"; video footage and computer animations of basic laboratory genetic procedures essential to biocommerce; and clips from popular films that have helped establish public perceptions of the possibilities and dangers of biocommerce. Biofutures enables users to understand fundamental concepts and key legal decisions that have determined the situations in which biological and genetic material and processes can become "owned"; basic biological and technological processes central to biotechnology; and specific strategies by means of which popular media representations (film, novel, and "bioart") employ, but also question, those understandings of biocommerce.