The president and his men pay ritual homage to science and technology, to be sure. In March, donning electricians' gloves and hauling cables, Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore participated in California's "Netday" effort to give students access to the Internet.

More important, last November Gore and the president's science adviser, John Gibbons, sketched out the grandiose federal plan for one of the nation's most promising but challenged fields in the report "Biotechnology for the 21st Century: New Horizons." It presented a sweeping vision: "Expand research to discover, characterize, modify, and control the genetics and biochemical products . . . of terrestrial and marine organisms. . . . Apply the tools of modern biotechnologies to problems in agriculture, the environment, and manufacturing. . . . Strengthen and enhance facilities, repositories, databases, reference standards, and human resources . . . ."

But wish lists are easy. Conspicuously absent from the...

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