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February 15-17 Symposium on Science and Ethics in Society:
The 25th Anniversary of the Asilomar Conference (Pacific Grove, CA)

Genetic Crossroads
December 26th, 1999

Some of the most important people involved with genetic engineering

in the United States--scientists, corporate and foundation executives,
politicians, journalists, scholars and others--will gather for a
three-day invitational meeting to assess the history and prospects
of regulatory policy in the US regarding genetic engineering.

The event is being held on the 25th anniversary of the 1975 meeting
at Asilomar at which scientists imposed a short voluntary moratorium
on recombinant DNA research in order to assess safety hazards. The
1975 Asilomar conference has been variously seen as an act of
responsible scientific leadership, as an unnecessary concession to
exaggerated public fears, and as a tactical move to discourage public
oversight of genetic engineering.

The Chair of the events planning committee for the 25th anniversary
meeting is Alexander Capron, codirector of the Pacific Center for
Health Policy and Ethics at the USC Law Center. Other planning
committee members are Paul Berg, director of Stanford University's
Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine; David Baltimore,
president of the California Institute of Technology; Maxine Singer,
president of the Carnegie Institution; Dorothy Nelkin of NYU; Daniel
Kevles of Cal Tech; and Joshua Lederberg of Rockefeller University.

Speakers include Harold Shapiro, Chair of the National Bioethics
Advisory Commission; Sheldon Krimsky of Tufts University; Rebecca
Goldburg of the Environmental Defense Fund; Troy Duster of NYU;
Harold Varmus, former NIH Director; US Senator Edward Kennedy;
Nicholas Wade of the New York Times; and Gordon Conway of the
Rockefeller Foundation.

A session on "Somatic and Germline Gene Therapy," chaired by Inder
Verma of the Salk Institute, is described as follows:

"While research on somatic cell gene transfer for medical reasons
(so-called `gene therapy') has been carried out for more than a
decade, the prevailing wisdom is that germ-line therapy ought not
to be undertaken. Is that view still valid? How can risks be
evaluated when the `experimental animal' is inevitably human?
Are such risks solely a personal matter or do potential effects
for society count as well?"


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