#2: Corporate Control of DNA

by Project Censored

Artificially created life is a scientific reality. Since 1973, scientists at university laboratories across the country have been creating new life forms from the gene-carrying DNA of other organisms. The organisms thus created are called DNA Recombinants because they are literally recombined from the DNA of other simple bacteria or viruses. DNA researchers maintain that their work may lead to the creation of new, life-saving drugs, new food sources, and cures for cancer and other diseases. A number of prominent scientists do not agree. They say that DNA research amounts to dangerous tampering with the evolutionary balance, tampering that could result in the release of hordes of lethal new viruses which could not be detected until it was too late. Al­though the National Institute of Health has published guidelines for DNA research, op­ponents of DNA work state the NIH guidelines are hopelessly unenforceable and do not apply at all to private industry. The federal government appears willing to allow in­dustry a free hand in creating new viruses, bacteria, and enzymes. A smallinter­agency committee was formed in November 1976 to look into the government’s role in DNA research. Although that committee met privately, with no press coverage, sources in­side the committee say that the government will probably adopt a set of lax, voluntary standards for industry, and will allow these firms to carry out their research secretly, in order to protect “trade information.” And private industry is deeply involved in DNA research. At least six major.: pharmaceutical firms are at present engaging in Re­combinant DNA work. General Electric has already applied for a patent on a new life form that will eat up oil spills. Although the debate over DNA reached a fever pitch in scientific circles in 1976, there was little if any media coverage on corporate DNA involvement and no public announcement by the government as to its policy on the matter. The lack of mass media coverage on this potentially catastrophic scientific endeavor qualifies the DNA story for nomination as one of the “best censored stories” of 1976.

CORPORATE DNA SOURCE: Mother Jones Magazine, Feb/Mar, 1977, “DNA: Have the corporations already grabbed control of new life forms?” by Jeremy Rifkin.

OTHER DNA SOURCES: Science Magazine, Oct. 15, 1976, “Recombinant DNA: A critic asks the right to free inquiry.” See also Science Magazine — July 23, 1976; Sept. 3, 1976; Sept. 24, 1976; Oct. 15, 1976; and Nov. 12, 1976.

The Progressive Magazine, March 1977,”Life from the Labs: Who will control the new technology?” see also The Progressive Magazine, March 1977, “One small step beyond mankind.”

Federal Register, Sept. 9, 1976, p 38425. See also Nov.6, 1974 for first government committee on DNA.


Dr. George Wald Harvard University Biology Lab

Cambridge, Mass. 02138

Dr. Ruth Hubbard Harvard University Biology Lab

Cambridge, Mass.. 02138

Dr. Liebe Cavalieri

Sloan Kettering Institute for Cancer Research

Dr. Philip Siekevitz Rockefeller University New York, N.Y. 10021