A national commission with a majority of nonscientists should be named to make regular reviews of the federal guidelines that govern potentially dangerous genetic research, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) said yesterday.
"What I am describing is a continuing version of the citizens' council in Cambridge, Mass.," said Kennedy - chairman of the Senate Health Subcommittee now reviewing those guidelines - to scientists at the Hoffman-LaRoche Laboratories in Nutley, N.J.
On advice of its citizens' council, the Cambridge City Council voted restrictions on genetic studies that go well beyond federal guidelines.
Local communities should retain the right "to add requirements they think essential to protect their own communities," Kennedy said.
He thus disagreed sharply with the recommendations of a federal interagency committee, and the views of most scientists, who think that genetic research and the growth of universities will suffer if there is patchwork of local regulation instead of national standards.
Kennedy argued that citizens must help make social decisions about science in genetics and other fields. On saccharin - subject to an imminent federal ban as a possible cause of cancer - he said, "Perhaps some foods should follow the tobacco precedent and be left to each of us to decide whether to buy it or pass it by."