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Nuffield Council on Bioethics UPDATE

Spring 2011    

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has an exciting spring ahead, with the launch of its report on biofuels on 13 April, a lecture by Baroness Onora O’Neill on 19 May and a consultation on emerging biotechnologies opening soon.

Biofuels report launch

Following an 18-month inquiry, the Council will publish a report on the ethical issues raised by biofuels on 13 April 2011. Current biofuel production, which mainly uses food crops, has led to deforestation and disputes over rising food prices and land use. New approaches to biofuels, such as those using non-food crops and algae, are being developed with the aim of meeting our energy demands whilst avoiding the problems of the past. The report will make recommendations for biofuels policy in areas such as: climate change, environmental sustainability, fair trade and human rights.

Members of the Working Party will present and discuss their findings at a public seminar in London on the afternoon of 13 April. The event is open to all and admission is free. Find out more and register. If you are unable to attend the seminar, copies of the report will be available to download from the Council’s website on 13 April.

20th anniversary public lecture: Baroness Onora O'Neill

As part of the Council’s 20th anniversary celebrations,  the 2011 annual public lecture will be given by Baroness Onora O'Neill on 19 May in London, entitled ‘Broadening bioethics: clinical ethics, public health and global health’. Baroness O’Neill is an internationally acclaimed philosopher and was a founding member of the Council in 1991, which she later went on to chair in the mid-1990s. The lecture will be followed by a reception and is free to attend. Find out more and register

Consultation on emerging biotechnologies

The Council will be soon launching a call for views and evidence on the ethical issues raised by emerging biotechnologies. By looking at both current examples, such as synthetic biology and nanotechnology, and taking lessons from older cases, such as GM crops and IVF, the Council is interested in the way society and policy makers respond to new biotechnologies and how benefits from these technologies can be secured in an ethically appropriate manner. Find out more about the Working Party and sign up for alerts about this consultation

Fellowship on solidarity in bioethics

We are delighted to announce that Dr Barbara Prainsack has started a six month fellowship working with the Council on the theme of 'Solidarity as a core value in contemporary bioethics'. The fellowship is jointly funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Nuffield Foundation and administered by the Economic and Social Research Council. Dr Prainsack will be exploring the use of solidarity as a major value in bioethics in the context of the changing role of bioethics in policy discussions. Find out more

Supporting bioethics in schools

The Council actively supports teachers to hold debates on bioethics in the classroom by producing teaching resources on topical bioethics issues and giving cross-curricula talks in schools. Talk topics have included animal research, stem cell research and the care of premature babies. If you would like an ethics expert to give a talk at your school, please contact:

Other current projects

  • The Working Party on the donation of human bodily material in medicine and research will publish its findings in autumn 2011. Find out more
  • A Working Party in novel neutotechnologies will begin work after the summer. More information to follow.

Update on previous projects

  • The Government’s Protection of Freedoms Bill, published on 11 February, proposes changes to the way people’s DNA is stored on the National DNA Database in line with recommendations made by the Council in its 2007 report on the forensic use of bioinformation. Find out more
  • On 9 March, the Council’s 2006 report on the care of extremely premature babies was featured in a BBC2 documentary called '23 Weeks: The Price of Life' produced by documentary maker Adam Wishart. Find out more

Other events

  • The Council is co-organising a session at Med-e-Tel 2011 in Luxembourg on 7 April 2011. Drawing on the Council’s recent report on Medical profiling and online medicine, Professor Christopher Hood and others will discuss the ethical and legal issues in e-health and telemedicine to an international audience of policy makers and providers. Find out more
  • To coincide with the Council’s consultation on emerging biotechnologies, a debate at the Cheltenham Science Festival on 8 June 2011 will consider the issues raised by synthetic biology. Speakers include Working Party member Dr Jane Calvert. Find out more

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