Lessons From the Pasteur Institute Cancers

The Pasteur Institute is world famous for the science it has produced for the past century, particularly in molecular biology. But for the past year and a half, molecular biologists have been concerned about another institute matter: six of its molecular biologists working with the teclmiques of genetic engineering have developed cancer. What do these cancers mean? Do they show that genetic engineering is hazardous for workers, as has been suggested by its critics from the beginning? Or is

Ditta Bartels
Oct 4, 1987

The Pasteur Institute is world famous for the science it has produced for the past century, particularly in molecular biology. But for the past year and a half, molecular biologists have been concerned about another institute matter: six of its molecular biologists working with the teclmiques of genetic engineering have developed cancer.

What do these cancers mean? Do they show that genetic engineering is hazardous for workers, as has been suggested by its critics from the beginning? Or is it all just coincidence?

Because scientists who began rDNA work were themselves concerned that health risks might be associated with it, they formulated preliminary guidelines at a February 1975 meeting—the famous Asiomar conference. These were formalized and issued by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in July 1976. These first guidelines were very rigid and required strict containment of many rDNA experiments behind physical barriers. In addition, they forbade rDNA work...

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