Richard Hayes of the Center for Genetics and Society has an excellent article at Bioethics Forum about the current "policy stalemate" over biotech regulation. In it he discusses a promising new report by Francis Fukuyama and Franco Furger. From the introduction:
The stem cell wars of the past five years have been a divisive and unpleasant affair. At the root of this sorry situation lies the fact that the most politically influential constituencies addressing these issues occupy opposite ends of an ideological spectrum and have generally been unmotivated to seek workable compromises. On the one end are religious conservatives opposed as a matter of faith and principle to any procedures that destroy human embryos. On the other end are many scientists and patient groups, and the biotechnology industry, opposed to constraints on what they believe to be fundamental rights to research, treatments, and profits.
This polarized politics has given us the worst of all possible worlds: a policy stalemate at the federal level accompanied by a plethora of state-level stem cell funding programs lacking the sort of planning, ethical oversight, and regulation that biomedical research of such consequence requires. California's $3 billion stem cell program is the poster child of this predicament. Since its inception in 2004 it has been under fire for conflicts of interest, inadequate concern for the health and safety of women who provide eggs for stem cell research, unrepresentative policy-making bodies, and misplaced research priorities. [...]
The tragedy of this situation is that public opinion surveys consistently show that a strong majority of Americans support a morally serious middle ground regarding the new human genetic technologies. Americans are not irrevocably opposed to research involving the destruction of human embryos, but they want to make sure it is done only after alternatives have been exhausted, and with effective structures of public oversight in place. Americans want cures for diseases, but few are willing to turn the genetic future of the human species over to dismissively arrogant scientists and profit-hungry biotech boosters. Unfortunately, no organized constituencies with influence comparable to that of the religious conservatives or the research/patient/bioindustrial community exist to represent this majoritarian position in the political arena.
But this could change. Beyond Bioethics: A Proposal for Modernizing the Regulation of Human Biotechnologies, by Francis Fukuyama and Franco Furger, could serve as a rallying point for those desiring an end to the current counterproductive policy stalemate.