Molecular biology and public opinion (fwd)

James Woodson jwoodson at ucla.edu
Fri Aug 1 14:56:05 EST 1997

I thought this was interesting reading.

There are movements underway in Britain and Europe to ban or
rigidly control the use of transgenic animals in biological
research. In the UK there are calls for a commission of inquiry
to investigate the welfare of transgenic animals. A recent survey
supported by the European Commission into public attitudes to
biotechnology evidently showed most respondents in EU countries
consider the creation of transgenic animals for research and for
organ transplantation to be morally unacceptable. In Switzerland,
Swiss scientists have issued a warning that biomedical research
in universities will be seriously harmed if a referendum to be
held next year to restrict genetic engineering (including a ban
on the use of transgenic animals) wins approval. An irony is that
surveys in Switzerland have shown that although three-quarters of
the population is against field trials of genetically modified
organisms, novel food, and cloning, a majority are in favor of
medical applications of technology. The apparent view of most
biologists about this matter is not complicated. The feeling
among biologists is that after centuries of arduous struggle by
thousands of biological researchers to understand fundamental
principles and apply them in medicine to alleviate suffering and
extend life, we are now, at the end of the 20th century, at the
threshold of the most important applications of basic biological
science to human health and the control of human disease. Genetic
engineering and the use of transgenic animals are absolutely
essential to extend molecular biology and apply it expeditiously
to human clinical medicine. It is indeed ironic that the same
people who call for a halt to transgenic animal research expect
the ultimate in scientific expertise when they or their children
are victims of disease or other biological misfortunes. It is sad
to have a public uneducated about these matters; it is even
sadder that many politicians deem it wisdom to follow the public
mood rather than lead it. (Nature 24 July)

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