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Biotech's Public Image: How to Provoke Regulation

Genetic engineering is never far from the headlines and the evening news. But most of the recent news has been dismaying for those who keep hoping that biotechnology will start learning from its own history that it has an image problem. Earlier this year, three different U.S. government agencies rebuked biotechnologists for conducting product testing outside the existing regulatory framework, sometimes in secret. In a separate incident, it was revealed that the Pan American Health Organization,

Tabitha Powledge

Genetic engineering is never far from the headlines and the evening news. But most of the recent news has been dismaying for those who keep hoping that biotechnology will start learning from its own history that it has an image problem.

Earlier this year, three different U.S. government agencies rebuked biotechnologists for conducting product testing outside the existing regulatory framework, sometimes in secret. In a separate incident, it was revealed that the Pan American Health Organization, in collaboration with the venerable Wistar Institute, has been testing a new genetically engineered rabies vaccine on cows in Argentina—without, alas, informing the Argentine government.

The vaccine shows enormous promise in controlling rabies, a major disease of wildlife and livestock. Because the vaccine uses a gene for a cell-surface protein of the rabies virus to trigger the immune response, it is also likely to be quite safe. But now a cloud hangs over this...

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