UNSW Law Initiative for Biolegality

UNSW Law Initiative for Biolegality (IBL) examines how law and biology orders our knowledge, regulates, allows or limits what can be done or undone. In the process, we look at how it can provide a deeper understanding of the entanglement of law and biology in the 21st century.

We are interested in how developments in the biosciences redefine what legally establishes nature, property, personhood, evidence, mens rea, citizenship, community, reproduction, health, kinship and ‘life’ (or nonlife). Recent court cases regarding property claims on human genes (Myriad), the harmful impact of RoundUp weed-killer (Monsanto), or the CRISPR-Cas9 ‘editing’ of embryonic DNA are examples of what is at stake.

In interrogating how biology influences our common understanding of legality, morality and science in the age of biotechnology, we take a cross-disciplinary perspective on the changing boundaries between law and biology. A few urgent examples of this development are:

  • the rewriting of rights and privacy regarding access to global bio-banks of human DNA by insurance companies, governments and biotech companies 
  • redefining ownership of human bio-material in regard to population research, potential suspects or pharmaceutical patent regimes 
  • shifting legal protection regimes of modified plants, living animals and CRISPR-Cas9 interventions in human embryos 
  • increasing biosecurity risks of dual-use research