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Comments on cabinet gene-splice plan.

Comments on cabinet gene-splice plan

April 15 ended the public comment period on the biotechnology policy proposed last December by a White House Cabinet Council. In brief, that proposal said that no new U.S. laws were necessary to regulate the commercialization of biotechnology; various agencies could divide responsibility according to product uses and review products and processes on a case-by-case basis using scientific advisory boards and regulatory bodies coordinated by interagency panels (SN: 1/5/85, p. 7). Response to the proposal has been generally favorable, Bernadine Healy of the Executive Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) told a congressional hearing last week.

The OSTP received 85 comments, the greatest number from industry or industrial and professional groups (41) and from university members (23). According to Healy, industry expressed concern about the time and cost of complying with the regulatory process, and several commentors requested that advisory committees include members of public interest groups, industry and nonscientists.

The most extensive criticism, submitted April 15, came from a public interest organization, the Environmental Policy Institute (EPI) of Washington, D.C. "We believe that this document [the biotechnology proposal] is, first of all, premature, and secondly, is inadequate and incomplete,' Jack Doyle of EPI told the hearing. The institute recommends that before any federal agency or congressional action to adopt a regulatory biotechnology framework, and before any agency approves field tests of genespliced organisms, the National Academy of Sciences should conduct a study on environmental and public health implications of genetic engineering. Such a study would be expected to take one to two years. Then, EPI says, Congress should review the Academy report for its legislative ramifications. Doyle says the current proposal reflects "an increasing sense of confused responsibility in the federal establishment.'
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Title Annotation:government regulation of commercialization of biotechnology
Publication:Science News
Date:May 4, 1985
Words:293
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