Reconsidering Asilomar

Paul Berg Regulating biotechnological discoveries hasn't gotten any easier since scientists and policymakers faced their first major challenge 25 years ago. In 1973, recombinant DNA technology burst onto the scene.1 The response was remarkably swift. A group of scientists led by Paul Berg, now director of the Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Research at the Stanford University School of Medicine, called for an international moratorium on recombinant DNA research, fearing that the technol

Eugene Russo
Apr 2, 2000


Paul Berg
Regulating biotechnological discoveries hasn't gotten any easier since scientists and policymakers faced their first major challenge 25 years ago. In 1973, recombinant DNA technology burst onto the scene.1 The response was remarkably swift. A group of scientists led by Paul Berg, now director of the Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Research at the Stanford University School of Medicine, called for an international moratorium on recombinant DNA research, fearing that the technology could be dangerous if handled improperly.2

In February 1975, an elite group of scientists, policymakers, and journalists assembled for the now-famous Asilomar meeting in Pacific Grove, Calif., to discuss what they knew and didn't know about the technology and to draw up guidelines that they hoped would let the science proceed without undue risk. Although contentious and grueling, the meeting and its resulting guidelines were generally regarded as a success, though recombinant DNA...

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