2. Corporate Control of DNA
Artificially created life is a scientific reality. Since 1973, scientists
at university laboratories across the country have been creating new
life forms from the gene-carrying DNA of other organisms. The organisms
thus created are called DNA Recombinants because they are literally
recombined from the DNA of other simple bacteria or viruses. DNA researchers
maintain that their work may lead to the creation of new, life-saving
drugs, new food sources, and cures for cancer and other diseases. A
number of prominent scientists do not agree. They say that DNA research
amounts to dangerous tampering with the evolutionary balance, tampering
that could result in the release of hordes of lethal new viruses which
could not be detected until it was too late. Although the National Institute
of Health has published guidelines for DNA research, opponents of DNA
work state the NIH guidelines are hopelessly unenforceable and do not
apply at all to private industry. The federal government appears willing
to allow industry a free hand in creating new viruses, bacteria, and
enzymes. A small-interagency committee was formed in November 1976 to
look into the government's role in DNA research. Although that committee
met privately, with no press coverage, sources inside the committee
say that the government will probably adopt a set of lax, voluntary
standards for industry, and will allow these firms to carry out their
research secretly, in order to protect "trade information."
And private industry is deeply involved in DNA research. At least six
major pharmaceutical firms are at present engaging in Recombinant DNA
work. General Electric has already applied for a patent on a new life
form that will eat up oil spills. Although the debate over DNA reached
a fever pitch in scientific circles in 1976, there was little if any
media coverage on corporate DNA involvement and no public announcement
by the government as to its policy on the matter. The lack of mass media
coverage on this potentially catastrophic scientific endeavor qualifies
the DNA story for nomination as one of the "best censored stories"
CORPORATE DNA SOURCE: Mother Jones Magazine, Feb/Mar, 1977, "DNA:
Have the corporations already grabbed control of new life forms?"
by Jeremy Rifkin.
OTHER DNA SOURCES: Science Magazine, Oct. 15, 1976, "Recombinant
DNA: A critic asks the right to free inquiry." See also Science
Magazine -- July 23, 1976; Sept. 3, 1976; Sept. 24, 1976; Oct. 15, 1976;
and Nov. 12, 1976.
The Progressive Magazine, March 1977,"Life from the Labs: Who
will control the new technology?" see also The Progressive Magazine,
March 1977, "One small step beyond mankind."
Federal Register, Sept. 9, 1976, p 38425. See also Nov.6, 1974 for
first government committee on DNA.
PROMINENT OPPONENTS TO DNA RESEARCH:
Dr. George Wald Harvard University Biology Lab
Cambridge, Mass. 02138
Dr. Ruth Hubbard Harvard University Biology Lab
Cambridge, Mass.. 02138
Dr. Liebe Cavalieri
Sloan Kettering Institute for Cancer Research
Dr. Philip Siekevitz Rockefeller University New York, N.Y. 10021