Defence research and genetic engineering
Fears and dissociation in the 1970s
in Scientific governance in Britain, 1914–79
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This chapter examines the implications for British defence research of the discovery of techniques to genetically engineer organisms in the early 1970s. While we argue that there is no evidence that the UK in the 1970s exploited genetic engineering techniques as a source of new weapons or defences, there were two consequences, which we call disassociations. First, the Microbiological Research Establishment, at Porton Down, was divorced from direct military patronage. In doing so, the governance of genetic engineering was influenced. Second, the concerns about the military potential of genetic engineering were subject to publicity management, and were dampened by invoking the provisions of the Biological Weapons Convention.


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