Original Repository: Stanford University Libraries. Department of Special Collections and University Archives. Paul Berg Papers
Reproduced with permission of T. A. Trautner.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Recombinant DNA Technologies and Researchers' Responsibilities, 1973-1980
Letter from Paul Berg to T. A. Trautner (July 25, 1979)
12 July 1979
As you may know, also in this country there is an extensive discussion going on about the pro's and con's and dangers
of gene technology, Experiments in gene technology in this country have to be approved by a Federal Committee consisting of
scientists and other people from various parts of the community. I am a member of this committee. The rules governing experiments
in gene technology operate on a voluntary basis. All research funded by Federal or State funds is contingent on the acceptance
of these rules. The pharmaceutical industry has also agreed to abide to these rules. The committee is unanimous in the opinion
that the existing rules, with their potential to become quickly adjusted to new developments in the field are at this stage
sufficient in their control of gene technology. However the Federal Government does very strongly pursue the idea that such
rules should become a law. The scientific community in this country and again the Committee feel that legislation controlling
gene technology is not in proportion to the actual risks of such research. The Federal Government on the other hand does not
accept these arguments. There is a very strong political motivation by the Federal Minister of Research and his administration
to introduce a draft for a law into parliament. Motives for this political argumentation are very similar to those which have
existed in the U.S.
At this stage the Federal Government is planning to hold a hearing on the potential risks and benefits of gene technology.
This hearing is to take place in the middle of September. I understand that you and also Stan Cohen have been invited to testify
at this hearing. I also know that King, Beckwith, Chargaff and Sinsheimer have accepted invitations to come to the hearing.
Professor Koch, who is the chairman of the Federal Committee on Recombinant Research has told me that neither you nor Stan
Cohen could come to Bonn on this occasion.
My feeling is that your presence at the hearing would be extremely beneficial for the free development and pursuit of gene
technology in this country. Therefore I am writing to you to ask whether you could not after all arrange it to come to the