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The Case Against Gene Sequencing

T he debate over complete sequencing of the human genome continues at a fever pitch. Indeed, this sequencing has become the biologists’ cause celebre for the waning years of this decade. While many have spoken forcefully in favor of this sequencing, the voices of opposition, at least in public, have been more muted. Many think it foolhardy and retrogressive to argue against a project that promises to yield a mountain of new data. With the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Inst

Robert Weinberg

T he debate over complete sequencing of the human genome continues at a fever pitch. Indeed, this sequencing has become the biologists’ cause celebre for the waning years of this decade. While many have spoken forcefully in favor of this sequencing, the voices of opposition, at least in public, have been more muted. Many think it foolhardy and retrogressive to argue against a project that promises to yield a mountain of new data. With the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health now fighting turf battles for various pieces of the action, the decision to go ahead seems already a fait accompli, as inevitable as taxes on April 15, death, and all the rest of life’s certainties.

The project currently is encumbered by numerous technical and logistical problems, but these likely will be overcome in short order. Once they are and the torrent of data pours out,...

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