Since the 1980s, scientists have promised that biotechnologies will form the basis of a new "knowledge-based" economy. Public and private investments in patenting and exploiting these technologies was intended to allow rich OECD countries to continue to compete economically with cheaper labour in developing economies such as India and China.
As well as promises about economic benefits, claims made to secure public and political support for genetic technologies have included that they will end all hunger, disease and crime.Beginning in the 1980s, a new system has been set up which relies heavily on public-private partnerships to drive research investment decisions. However, there are concerns that such investments are not accountable either to the market or the taxpayer, and that exaggerated promises lead to bubbles which make a few investors rich but are a net drain on the economy.
To find out how vested interests lead to taxpayers' money being wasted on poor research priorities, read GeneWatch UK's report about science funding and the biotech economy.
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