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Francis Fukuyama Calls for New Regulatory Body
to Govern Research in Biotechnology
A member of the US President's Council on Bioethics called for the creation of a regulatory agency to oversee the biotechnology industry, during a meeting of the Washington Science Policy Alliance at AAAS on Tuesday, June 11.
Comparing recent scientific breakthroughs to the advent of the airplane, Francis Fukuyama said that research in biotechnology should be regulated by an agency with powers similar to those of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
"(Advances in biotechnology) escape the bounds of our current regulatory system," said Fukuyama, author of the recent book, Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution. "The biotechnology industry requires a regulatory system with a broad mandate to approve anything therapeutic, (and) to slow down research geared toward human enhancement."
A bill introduced in the US Senate in January would ban all cloning and impose criminal sanctions on scientists who conduct such research (the House has already approved similar legislation). A second bill, introduced in the Senate on 30 April, would outlaw cloning to reproduce human beings, but would allow therapeutic cloning to go forward. Fukuyama pointed out, however, that none of the legislation that is scheduled to be debated in the Senate assigns to any agency oversight responsibility for biotechnology research.
"We need to provide a set of rules without worrying about falling down a slippery slope to dangerous territorybecause not everything that is technologically possible should be implemented," said Fukuyama.
He says he's seeking funding to study his proposal, and invited members of the audience to join him in his efforts.
Fukuyama began his lecture by describing four different directions, or pathways, indicated by future advances in biotechnologycognitive evolution, neural pharmacology, life extension, and genetic engineering. He warned that all four pose dangers to society because the results of the biotechnology revolution are "unforeseen and unprecedented."
During a question-and-answer session, Fukuyama said, "We need to return to a richer understanding of human good, and look at the complex beings that we really are and not as just 'pain and pleasure beings.'"
18 June 2002