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Varieties of Secrets and Secret Varieties: The Case of Biotechnology

Susan Wright and David A. Wallace
Politics and the Life Sciences
Vol. 19, No. 1 (Mar., 2000), pp. 45-57
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4236562
Page Count: 13
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Varieties of Secrets and Secret Varieties: The Case of Biotechnology
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Abstract

This article examines several trends that have combined to veil the new field of biotechnology in secrecy: the transformation of biotechnology from an essentially academic field characterized by strong norms of openness to a field with extensive corporate connections that have reached even to research in leading universities; the establishment of intellectual property rights for life-forms initiated by the landmark Supreme Court decision, Diamond vs. Chakrabarty; and the limiting of public access to information about the genetically altered organisms whose use in agriculture, industry, and medicine falls under government controls. The article also examines the effects of the U.S. biotechnology industry's demand for secrecy on the negotiations for a protocol to the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, particularly the turn from requirements for transparency to protection of opacity with respect to biotechnology and other biological processes, equipment, and production.

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