From an article by Gershon W. Fishbein in Genetic Engineering Letter on April 10:
Biotechnology's business has become Washington's business in a way that would not have been foreseen a month ago.
The administration's inclination to shelter the infant industry from the heavy hand of regulatory agencies has given way to a more pragmatic awareness that the promise of genetic engineering cannot exempt it from public scrutiny of its risks.
EPA's actions in suspending the permit of Advanced Genetic Sciences for conducting outdoor tests of its genetically altered bacterium in violation of toxic substances laws and its admonition to Monsanto to retest its experimental pesticide, along with adverse reaction to the Agriculture Department's approval of a live vaccine without going through channels, all combine to make a statement.
In brief, the statement is that the federal government is no less committed to assist in the growth of the biotechnology industry but that the growth must come inside the framework of existing regulatory laws, not outside.
It is somewhat disturbing, although not particularly surprising, that the government agencies did not know the regulations were being violated until Jeremy Rifkin, a whistle-blowing technician, and articles in the media brought it to their attention. This is hardly a tribute to the vigilance of the agencies.
For the biotechnology industry, the task now is to reform its actions and its rhetoric, to stop its mindless denunciation of Rifkin as some sort of Luddite, and to begin thinking of the federal government as its ally in the process of orderly development in harmony with laws and regulations.