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The Economic Dynamics of Modern Biotechnology

Edited by Maureen McKelvey, Annika Rickne and Jens Laage-Hellman

This book offers a novel insight into the economic dynamics of modern biotechnology, using examples from Europe to reflect global trends. The authors apply theoretical insight to a fundamental enigma of the modern learning society, namely, how and why the development of knowledge and ideas interact with market processes and the formation of industries and firms.
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Chapter 6: Risk Management and the Commercialization of Human Genetic Testing in the UK

Michael M. Hopkins and Paul Nightingale


Michael M. Hopkins and Paul Nightingale 1. INTRODUCTION While biotechnology offers opportunities for economic development and improved health, it also raises public concerns and fears about its potential risks (see Stirling 2000; Berkhout 2002; Martin et al. 2000). The cases of Monsanto with genetically modified (GM) foods and the UK government with BSE and the MMR vaccine show that organizations that fail to manage these risks and address public fears can suffer serious commercial and political consequences (for example, see Martinson 1999). Although there is huge diversity within Europe, this concern tends to be more prevalent among Europeans than among their counterparts in the USA (Priest 2000). This is due, in part, to different cultural and political traditions. Industrial lobbies do not have the same power in the European political system as in Washington, and there is a strong environmentally focused ‘green’ tradition that stresses ‘precautionary approaches’ to the introduction of new technologies. Consequently, the USA has adopted a largely liberal, caveat emptores approach to the introduction of genetics technologies, although this may change as Americans have become increasingly concerned about environmental and social consequences (Priest 2000). European states, on the other hand, particularly after the failure of traditional risk management approaches to address public concern over BSE, have moved towards more participative precautionary approaches. This change in public policy during the 1990s raises questions about how firms can manage the introduction of contentious technologies in environments where the public and policy-makers are concerned about risk....

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