Roy Curtiss was an attendee at the Asilomar Conference and member of the Recombinant DNA Molecule Program Advisory Committee,
which evaluated the safety risks and containment requirements of recombinant DNA experiments. After first agreeing to the
voluntary moratorium on such experiments, Curtiss came to regard genetic engineering experiments involving the much-studied
K-12 strain of the bacterium Escherichia coli as harmless, and called for revising the NIH guidelines to ease E. coli K-12
containment requirements. In this letter he addressed problems of definition of what constituted recombinant DNA molecules
in Congressional bills that sought to achieve the opposite: to impose stricter regulation of recombinant DNA research.
Number of Image Pages:
1 (69,104 Bytes)
1977-06-03 (June 3, 1977)
Curtiss, Roy III
University of Alabama in Birmingham
Original Repository: Library of Congress. Maxine Singer Papers
Reproduced with permission of the Library of Congress.
Risk, Regulation, and Scientific Citizenship: The Controversy over Recombinant DNA Research
Letter from Roy Curtiss III to Maxine Singer (May 20, 1977)
Sorry to be so long in responding to your letter of 20 May. The fact is I've been on a merry-go-round regarding definitions
and was awaiting resolution of such before writing.
As you probably know I am in favor of the substance of the Advisory Committee's new draft. I have been involved with various
attempts to get such a definition in the bills now being considered. H.R. 7418, the most recent House version, attempts to
do what the Advisory Committee suggests, but the wording is terribly garbled. There is already a revision that will be proposed
at the mark-up (now postponed for the second time, until next Tuesday) and that is clear, while still containing some problems.
I hope to be in touch with Zimmerman tomorrow. Clearly, if the narrower definition is in a bill that is passed, the desired
end will be achieved.
The current version of the Senate bill (S. 1217) also has an exclusion but it is not narrowed by the important eukaryote -
prokaryote distinction (a COPY is enclosed). Perhaps you could write to the Senate Sub-Committee suggesting such a distinction.
I am not sending the House version as the latest version of the definition is not in my copy. The senate and House bills are
markedly different throughout. The Senate bill would set up a large bureaucracy, and would more readily permit independent
local laws. The House version is much more reasonable to my thinking.