Throughout the twentieth century and continuing into the present, the general public has been fascinated by advances in genetic knowledge. At times, individuals and groups have either inadvertently or deliberately misused genetic knowledge in the service of political goals. At other times, advances in genetics have challenged deeply held societal or religious beliefs. During the 1990s, there were many advances that focused an unprecedented level of public attention and concern on genetics. In particular, the public has expressed deep concern about gene mapping, cloning, and genetically modified foods. In each case, the origin of the concern and the nature of the public response have been different. I consider these topics and argue that the scientific community must increase its commitment to public discourse.


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