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The making of a global controversy
  1. M A Peinado

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    Edited by M W Bauer and G Gaskell. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2002. (Pp 411; $75.00). ISBN 0-52177-317-2

    Experts in different social and scientific fields have been coordinated by editors Martin W Bauer and George Gaskell with the aim to analyse, from different angles, one of the more important and dynamic socioeconomic phenomenon of the recent years: the biotechnology. As the editors expose in the volume presentation: “This book takes up themes explored at a conference at the Science Museum London, in 1993, which was convened to explore the structures and functions of resistance in the development of new technologies”. The volume holds the main thesis of the conference, which could be resumed as follow: “resistance is not a problem of the public opinion rather it is a signal that acts as a catalyst for organisational and institutional learning”.

    The book comprises a total of 13 chapters gathered in five parts, which include the results of a four year international research project conducted between 1996 and 1999 and called “Biotechnology and the European public”. In part I, named “The framing of a new technology: 1973–1996”, the authors go over bioethics debate and biotechnology regulation during the past 25 years in Europe, throughout five contributions. Part II, deals with “Public representation in 1996”; it includes four chapters about traditional blue and green resistance, the structure of public perceptions, and the image of the genetic engineering such as a way of nature manipulation. Part III highlights “The watershed years 1996–97” describing two emblematic examples: the modified soya and the cloned Dolly. In part IV, and under the attractive title of “The transatlantic puzzle”, the authors analyse how genetically modified seed, food, and pharmaceuticals became a reality, in which great companies like Mosanto emerged from USA, although when extended to Europe, they found a controversial socio-political atmosphere. Finally, part V includes a unique chapter dealing with the biotechnology movement that integrates all the book contents under the highline “Towards a social theory of new technology”.

    In short, the book attempts to highlight a social representation about biotechnology and public opinion in occidental countries during the past decade. Appropriately, its contents could be resumed as “the making of a global controversy”.