Open Access

Science, public policy and engagement: Debates on stem cell research in Brazil

Genomics, Society and Policy20106:15

https://doi.org/10.1186/1746-5354-6-3-15

Published: 15 December 2010

Abstract

This paper analyses the main narratives, rhetorical resources and themes deployed during public contemporary debates on stem cell research (SCR) and cellular therapy in Brazil, an emergent global player. It examines the discursive rhetoric used to discuss adult and embryonic stem cell research and analyses the processes and main themes involved in the approval of the 2005 Biosecurity Law at the National Congress and, more specifically, during the 2007 public hearing at the Federal Supreme Court. Relying on previous academic work and supported by the analysis of public audiences' transcriptions, key journal reports and 15 semi-structured face-to-face interviews, the paper focuses mainly on the common topics in the scientists' narratives to map the characteristics of the Brazilian debates and establish the main convergences and divergences between the positions taken by opposing lobbies. These are illustrated by selected statements on recurrent themes and assumptions. There are three main areas of focus: forms of scientific, technical and moral construction of discourse and regulation; strategies towards civil society's engagement and participation; and the country's contributions to global genetics and health biotechnology. The paper argues that the specificities of the narratives deployed by the different social actors are a product not solely of sociocultural and religious backgrounds and practices, but also of local SRC development and social awareness, of the exercise of citizens' rights, and of prevalent cultural trends in the local relations between science, medicine and society.