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Portland to Become a Bio-Science/Tech. center according to Wyden & Mayor Katz?!!

There is a big plan by Wyden, Mayor Katz, businesses, others unknown, etc., to make Portland a Bio-Science/Tech. center with MILLIONS of taxpayer dollars spent to do it. We will be hearing more about it. Sunday, 4/7's Oregonian, has an article about it---www.oregonlive.com. So, stay tuned and there will be lots of opposition as you can guess!!
The following information is about an important issue that many of us activists knew little or nothing about before last Friday. But, there is a big plan by Wyden, Mayor Katz, businesses, others unknown, etc., to make Portland a Bio-Science/Tech. center with MILLIONS of taxpayer dollars to be spent to do it. We will be hearing more about this. Sunday, 4/7's Oregonian, has an article about it---www.oregonlive.com. So, stay tuned and there will be lots of opposition as you can guess!!

The "Senate Field Hearing" on Biotech w/Senator Ron Wyden
Friday, April 5th 9:30am**

Metro Regional Ctr - 600 NE Grand Ave (Grand & Hoyt)
Phone:(503)797-1700
Public attendance accepted but not encouraged / No public commentary
Wyden's local phone#: 503-326-7525

The following information for us is from NW Resistance Against Genetic Engineering or NWRage: We need to "... show your opposition to corporate welfare for the biotechnology industry ... Biotechnology is currently where the dot coms were a few years ago, spending lots of money and making very little. The question is not if the industry will collapse, it is when ... to pin Portland's economic hopes on biotechnology is a sad joke that will line the pockets of the rich and leave the rest of us holding the bag. Don't believe the hype!"

Other Important Info. provided for those of us going: This meeting is being called a "Senate Field Hearing" (by Wyden's office). Apparently the public will be admitted but not given opportunity to comment.

There were 3 panels: 1) Vera Katz and city planners 2) University heads (PSU & OHSU) 3) Biotech industry reps

The questions are many; but---who will benefit from the $91 million/year industry?---the Oregon populace? How much in tax breaks with "...indications of attempts to further loot our tax money and place it squarely in the hands of institutions already unaccountable to us for millions, if not billions, of dollars. (Just try obtaining a copy of OHSU's budget.)"

Case in point: Following voter defeat of Measure 89 which would have given $10mil of Oregon's Tobacco Settlement to OHSU, state legislators declared an "emergency" and forked over $200million for expansion of the Primate Center in anticipation of the biotech rush (SB832). [More on the Tobacco Settlement Scam] WARNING: Your legislator may look at you like you're crazy for mentioning it ... and may deny knowing about it, even if they co-sponsored it. Think: Kate Brown.
(Email/websites:  brown.sen@state.or.us
Web page Address:  http://www.leg.state.or.us/brown/
 http://www.leg.state.or.us/orlaws/sess0900.dir/0921ses.html
 http://www.leg.state.or.us/comm/commsrvs/2001sml.pdf)

Senate Bill 832 - Summary Relating to Oregon Health Sciences University SB 832, also referred to as the ³Oregon Opportunity Act,² authorizes up to $200 million for investment in research facilities at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU). The measure allows OHSU to use state-backed bonds to construct new research facilities and recruit additional scientists to help create a biotechnology industry in Oregon. The legislature also referred HJR 19 to the voters for consideration during the May, 2002 Primary Election. HJR 19 would amend the Oregon Constitution to authorize the sale of state general obligation bonds to finance capital improvements at OHSU, such as laboratory space, equipment, and resources to attract and recruit top scientists. State funds authorized by SB 832 will be augmented by a $300 million private OHSU fundraising campaign. Effective date: August 8, 2001

--
Can contact: NWRage at: www.nwrage.org
www.ohsukillsprimates.com

phone: phone: 503-232-0107


OHSU wants Oregonians to be guinea pigs 09.Apr.2002 09:49

midwives for peace

OHSU has for the past few years been actively marketing to Oregon rural communities the finacial advantages of becoming experimental populations for biotehnology projects sponsored by OHSU. The daily newspaper in Astoria often runs large advertisements about the "advantages" of participating in OHSU-sponsored biotech projects. These expensive ads are probably running in The Oregonian as well.

you no longer own your dna 09.Apr.2002 17:30

jb

Thanks to the Oregon legislature you no longer own your DNA, but a corporation can own it. A scientist or corporation can patent your heritable genetic information after taking it from a blood or tissue sample.

Look at how much money the legislators who voted for this bill last year got from pharmaceutical/biotech companies (not to mention unreported bribes), especially Kate Brown.

Coalition against medical fraud? Anybody? 09.Apr.2002 23:24

heck

Hi!
Are any of you familiar with the technology transfer act? Basicly what it does is facilitates regional economic growth by giving away tax payer funded reaserch to private corperations (like ohsu) through what are known as C.R.A.D.A.'s of cooperative reaserch and development aggreements.
Well somthing some of us friends were thinking after the 99 primate freedom tour is that we would try to explore and further develop the conection between medical fraud, animal research, genetics, and the environment. What we came across startled us. Really what it amounts to is this. Bill Moyers did a documentary called "toxic lies" last year in it he ilistrated how corperations like Monsanto have a documented history of tapering with the health laws to attack workers, and the enviroment. How they used faulty animal reaserch to substantiate unsafe pcb (MELTS YOUR BONES) exposure levels in it's workers. How they, after bieng advised by company doctors of lethal effects in thier plants formed international organizations called pacs to lobby for exposure levels they knew were dangerious.
Well, A friend and I were speaking at the national conference on civil disobedience a couple years back and we ran into some of the workers from one of these plants. They were attempting a failing strike at one of Cisco's chemical plants and finding that the international corperation they worked for was bringing in scabs. Thier PRIMARY reason for striking was that the company was blocking thier attempts to have the epa review of exposure standards (developed on animals) which were leaving thier plant workers DEAD! IN TRYING TO CHALLANGE EXPOSURE STANDARDS DEVELOPED BY THE CORPERATION THEY WORKED FOR THEY FOUND THAT THEY COULD NOT ATTAIN (EVEN THROUGH F.I.A) TRANSCRIPTS OF THE STUDY'S DONE TO DETERMINE STATE OSHA STANDARDS AS THIS INFORMATION (developed with your tax dallors) IS THE PROPERTY OF THE CORP. THEY WORK FOR ACCORDING TO THE FEDERAL TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER ACT. They organized with the local IWW because thier national union wouldn't go to bat with the pharmacutical/chemical producers lobby which represents an industry that's profits comprise around 13% of the nations gdp. The workers in the bill moyers report released LAST year said that they were having the same damn problem.
GUESS WHAT
This knowledge we came to grasp originated with the Idea that if we could find a drug like phen phen or (psb? the ingredient that in dimatap that was liquefying kids brains all these years) and use government funded studies and Freedom of Information Act requests we could trak the devolopment of a lethal drug back to the animal labratories where they were developed and look for coruption. Beleave me WE'VE GOT LEGITAMITE STUDIES that document how prevalent it is within the medical industry AT LARGE. If we could focus this then all those ANGRY people who's family members are dying in plants, all those frustrated seniors who are watching thier friends die of unexplainable side effects, all the inefectual animalrights actavists, all the familys of kids who die from gene tests and dimatap, might begin to see the way, and have a working chance at challenging the credibility of medical standards and procedures developed through corrupt studies. (protected by corperate secrecy clauses)
They might be able to then take thier anger and focus it to positive aims. What i beleave this will require is that some of these groups that are out there band together. If only to the aim of sharing resources. And attack our common enemy corperate secrecy law. AN interesting fact: One of the principle proponents of deregulated medicine is an trade orginization called PHARMACUTICAL REASERCH AND MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION. This group is currently spearheading a THIRTY MILLION DALLOR campaign to kill the Oregon Health Plan here in Oregon. If you want ANY futher info on this subject matter, including blueprints for the economic proposal to build this gene tech industry here, call or EMAIL US (people for truth in medicine) at
503-493-1105
 mbthink@hotmail.com

No fuckin' way... 10.Apr.2002 14:05

...are they gonna build this in Portland

Hmmmm... this biotech crap seems to be tying all these issues of workers rights (remember the OHSU nurses went on strike a few months ago), genetic engineering, animal testing, medical testing on humans, and general medical industry corruption and collusion with multi-nationals, not to mention urban development and gentrification. We're talking about a mega-facility here with housing, work-places and a shopping center all on the same campus. The words "concentration camp" come to mind. Sounds like we need a coalition of people from anti-biotech, animal rights, anti-gentrification, eco-direct action and labor union groups (am I missing anyone?)to shut this whole project down. Direct action gets the goods.

MORE INFO ANYBODY? 11.Apr.2002 20:46

heck mbthink@hotmail.com

When REASERCHING GOVERNMENT COMPLICITY IN MEDICAL FRAUD I FOUND THIS SITE HELPFUL
 http://netvet.wustl.edu/law.htm
It contains basicly most organizations that have anything to do with genetics, the enviroment, animals, or the laws that substantiate their destruction in america. I really don't know how much you want in terms of info. We've got a Journal Of American Medicine study showing how DOCTORS kill more people than guns and traffic accidents. We've got studies from Thinktwice.com that show how from the time manditory vaccination laws to have been passed to 1997 more than 800 million dallors has been paid out for hundreds of injuries and deaths caused by mandated vaccienes. We've got a G.overnent A.ccounting O.ffice report that shows how technology transfer from government N.I.H. medical research labs to private medical=(genetics, pharmacutical/animal reaserch, pesticides, occuspational safety/industrially used chemicals, agriculture/animals/plants we eat) is the most heavilly funded type of technology transfer. It out paces subsidized technology tranfer from military, space and all other government sectors combined and from 1996 to 1998 comprised 95.1 percent of all the royalties received for tech tranfers. We've got a (out of date,1995) Portland Buiseness Journal report outlining Ohsu's plans to build a silicon vally of genetics in beaverton. It's has government transportation officials describing how the primary reason they built max out that way was to accomplish these aims and is really iluminating. We've got a copy of toxic lies the Bill Moyers report I described on the indy post which has all kinds of usefull info. If you look on the net.vet site I believe there is a link to the department of agriculture webpage/database I think it's called "biotechnology permit database" which I think includes requests. Some of this info takes hours of deciphering to understand. Which is Why I think there needs to be a coalition formed to gather all our usefull info and outline our understanding of the medical industrial complex which includes a common understanding of how all the various forms of medical fraud bieng perpetrated today are connected, and how these varied pieces fit to become a system of oppression. Substantiated through lies. This is a call to form a focus group. It is a call to realize the scope and nature of oppression as it relates to the medical industry. THIS IS A VERY BIG BEAST. We've done some of the work to outline how laws and specificly corperate secrecy laws work to prop up and substantiate the murder of the earth, and it's peoples but we are few in numbers and we realize that you may have other pieces of this horrid puzzle. Which we (and I hope) you will work to put together.




March 22, 1999
Money + Science = Ethics Problems on Campus
by DAVID SHENK
The third most dispensed drug in the United States is a thyroid medication called Synthroid. Eight million Americans suffering from hypothyroidism take Synthroid every day, paying a premium for Knoll Pharmaceutical's top-selling brand name rather than buying the much less expensive generic alternative. As is the case with most brand leaders, Knoll's enormous success with Synthroid is entirely dependent on its continuing ability to convince its users and the healthcare community that its drug is worth the extra cost. This the company has done brilliantly for decades, despite any real proof of Synthroid's superiority.
In the late eighties, the company (then known as Boots Pharmaceutical) had good reason to believe it was on the verge of obtaining such proof. A clinical pharmacist at the University of California, San Francisco, named Betty Dong published a limited study that strongly suggested Synthroid would beat out its competitors in a blind, randomized trial. The company approached Dong, offering her the full $250,000 needed to pay for such a long and complex study.
Alas, the study backfired on the company. To the surprise of nearly everyone, including Dong, the results suggested that Synthroid was no more or less effective than three much cheaper competitors. All four were what scientists call "bioequivalent."
But the company had a trump card. As the study's sponsor, it had not only been able to design the protocols of the drug trial; it also had exclusive access to the prepublished results of the study as well as final approval over whether the study could ever be made public. Not surprisingly, with the results so threatening to its marketing efforts, Knoll set out to thwart the study. In addition to delaying its publication in a scientific journal by many years, effectively destroying the relevance of its data, the company also undermined the study's message by pre-emptively publishing the UCSF data in a different journal with a different (much friendlier) conclusion. Then Knoll waged a massive PR campaign against the real study, "Bioequivalence of Generic and Brand-name Levothyroxine Products in the Treatment of Hypothyroidism," by Betty J. Dong et al., after it was finally published in the spring of 1997 in the eminent Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
A massive class-action lawsuit followed the publication of Dong's JAMA report, alleging on behalf of all Synthroid users that Knoll had defrauded them of hundreds of millions of dollars in inflated costs. The company has offered to settle for a sum close to $100 million--which would be the largest cash settlement for a class-action suit of its kind in history. And yet, even with such a fantastic price to pay, one can only conclude that in the end Knoll has benefited tremendously from its brash interference in the academic research process: A hundred million is but a small fraction of the profits the company made from Synthroid during the years it was suppressing the study. And by its ability to taint Dong's study with controversy over the years, Knoll was able to nullify any would-be effect. "Sales continue to grow very rapidly," Carter Eckert, Knoll's president, told me when I visited him at the company's rural New Jersey headquarters. "Our position has been validated."
Betty Dong's case, while extraordinary, is not isolated. In Toronto, liver specialist Nancy Olivieri was threatened with legal action by the Canadian drug giant Apotex if she published criticisms of its drug L1, concerns that had emerged from a clinical trial the company was sponsoring. In Providence, Rhode Island, Brown University's director of occupational medicine, David Kern, was pressured both by a local company and by his own university not to publish his findings about a new lung disease breaking out at the company's plant (Kern did publish his data, and the disease Flock Worker's Lung was officially recognized by the Centers for Disease Control in September 1997). In Winston-Salem, North Carolina, hypertension expert Curt Furberg and three colleagues resigned from a major Sandoz-funded study of calcium channel blockers, a controversial class of drugs purported to decrease the risk of heart attacks, rather than cave in to company pressure to spin negative results in a positive light. "I have seen people in industry asking for stranger and stranger things in private funding, as far as control is concerned," says Gregory Gardiner, Yale's senior director of the Office of Cooperative Research. Indeed, these sensational cases may well be only the visible tip of a broader crisis in academic science. Over the past two decades, university-industry partnerships have become a ubiquitous feature of biotech research, and with this new closeness has come a raft of new concerns about whether the soul of academic science is being slowly eaten away. "We need to be vigilant," suggests Gardiner, "to make sure nothing is happening to university science."
The infusion of private capital is staggering. In 1997 US companies spent an extraordinary $1.7 billion on university-based science and engineering research, a fivefold increase from 1977. More than 90 percent of life-science companies now have some type of formal relationship with academic scientists, and 60 percent of those report that they have achieved new patents, products and sales as a result. In the realm of university science, at least, that once-remote ivory tower now finds itself cater-corner to an office park--in many cases literally.
No one doubts that this surge in university-industry alliances has produced enormous scientific progress, yielding important new drugs like the anti-HIV agent 3TC, a synthetic version of the anticancer drug Taxol and the Haemophilus b conjugate children's vaccine for bacterial meningitis. University-industry alliances have also hatched many critical tests and medical technologies, prolonging and improving countless lives.
The new alliances have also generated a lot of profit. According to the Association of University Technology Managers, a boosterish pro-alliance trade group, corporate licensing of university inventions now accounts for $21 billion in annual revenue, which in turn supports 180,000 jobs. The arrangement has also become an important new revenue stream for academic institutions and for individual faculty: In fiscal year 1993 the top ten universities alone received $170 million in product royalties. In the majority of campus technology transfer policies, the researchers making discoveries are entitled to a portion of that money. Sure enough, a survey by Tufts University's Sheldon Krimsky of articles published in 1992 in the fourteen leading US biomedical journals disclosed that 15 percent of lead authors had some significant financial interest in their published report. A similar survey in 1996 suggested the proportion was closer to one-third. And a just-completed Krimsky study of 62,000 articles published in 210 different journals revealed that potential conflicts-of-interest are almost never reported. Though all 210 journals have a formal disclosure requirement, 142 of them did not publish a single disclosure in all of 1997. "Companies say, 'Here's the design. Are you interested?'" explains Bowman Gray medical school's Curt Furberg. "Being interested means a lot of funding for you and your institution. There's a lot of appeal in going along."
Unfortunately, the cost of economic success may often be the integrity of the science itself. What are we to make of a recent study published in JAMA suggesting that an astouding 43 percent of women and 31 percent of men suffer from "sexual dysfunction"--once we also discover that two of the study's authors served as paid consultants to Pfizer, which manufactures Viagra? (The relationships were not disclosed in JAMA.) If individual researchers are profiting from their own research, considers University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Mildred Cho, "the outcome or direction of their work may be affected. They might, for instance, be tempted (consciously or unconsciously) to design studies that are more likely than not to have an outcome favorable to the product." Or they might be tempted to keep lifesaving but potentially profitable information secret from the colleagues--now competitors--who could most readily build on the discovery. "There is little question that academic faculty have a very different and less critical attitude toward a specific company if they are getting a lot of money," insists Public Citizen's Sidney Wolfe. "It's not just research grants. A number of these people supplement their income by going around the country giving talks funded by the drug industry. It adds a significant amount of money to their income. You don't bite the hand that feeds you." The obligation purchased with this money, Wolfe says, eats into "the freedom to teach the way you want to, to put drugs on the formulary, to do the research you want to do, to publish when you have results, as opposed to when some company decides that it's OK. People don't have to sign restrictive agreements. You can modify people's behavior just by giving them money."
Such subtle and not-so-subtle perversions of science are very difficult to detect but have very real economic and health implications for American consumers. When adverse side effects are not adequately reported, drugs and devices maintain artificial leads--and premium prices. Scientists sometimes may not pursue drugs or tests that lack obvious short-term markets. Ultimately, private science could end up answering not to the public good but to the same pressures that drive stocks up and down. "The reason we got the money [from Boots/Knoll] was that chances were that the results were going to be very positive," says Dong, still an important researcher at UCSF. "I've changed my mind about that. I don't think that's a very good reason to do research."
Whatever the drawbacks of the privatization of research, logic would dictate that they are already pervasive. "Some of the collaborations I find strange," says Allen Sinisgalli, Princeton's associate provost. "If you're involved in sponsored research and you're working on one floor and the corporation is on the other floor, it's hard to believe that the stairwell somehow acts as a membrane that will prevent conflicts of interest." While private investment amounts to just 12 percent of the total annual budget for academic life science, that number nevertheless signals a radical shift in the funding of American science--a shift that is causing considerable concern among a small group of academic ethicists. "An entrepreneurial atmosphere that has begun to alter the ethos of science," warns Sheldon Krimsky. "Norms of behavior within the academic community are being modified to accommodate closer corporate ties."
This is not to say that medical research is rife with corruption. But there are unmistakable warning signs. One recent study, for example, revealed that among published studies of new drug therapies, 98 percent of those financially supported by the pharmaceutical industry commented favorably on the new drug--in contrast to 79 percent of studies with no industry support. Ninety-eight percent: Either industry-supported studies are consistently and miraculously beating all the odds, or a raft of unfavorable results is somehow not getting published. "This is the biggest ethical issue facing biomedical research now and into the twenty-first century," says Mildred Cho. "It's something that's sneaking up on us now and shouldn't be."
If you ever want to watch an ethicist struggling with a crisis of conscience, offer to spring for lunch. This is the level of consternation I have unintentionally created as I meet with Drummond Rennie in San Francisco. "I'm sorry, I can't. I just can't let you do that--but please let me explain why," Rennie, the West Coast deputy editor of JAMA, pleads in his plaintive Winchester-Cambridge accent as I try to pay for our mayonnaisey sandwiches just downstairs from his office. Jerking out his black leather billfold, Rennie explains his longtime, ironclad rule of refusing all offers of free food, travel, lodging--indeed, perks of any kind--from anyone other than his employer. Polite apologies are exchanged, accepted. No harm done. Our mutual autonomy intact, we head back upstairs. As I set up my tape recorder, Rennie, who over the years has slowly fashioned himself into the conscience not only of JAMA but more generally of scientific publishing, opens a drawer and begins to excavate the Synthroid files.
A junior associate, Veronica Yank, lends a hand. There isn't much glory in the business of ethical scrutiny, and certainly not much money; it's not the type of job that filters into the daydreams of ambitious children or that charming recruiters wax about over seared tuna to recent Phi Beta Kappa graduates. So here at the Institute for Health Policy Studies, a think tank affiliated with UCSF's prestigious medical school, Professor Rennie has also made an extra effort to mentor other like-minded scientists. While most of the world's researchers investigate matters of efficacy, morbidity and so on, this small cadre--Cho, Yank and Rennie protégée Lisa Bero (herself now a leading force in the field)--joins Krimsky and David Blumenthal of Harvard in examining the integrity of that research. It's nothing like a police squad, though, because most of the flaws and compromises they discover are not even apparent to the researchers. Because of corporate influence, says Rennie, "there is distortion that causes publication bias in little ways, and scientists just don't understand that they have been influenced. There's influence everywhere, on people who would steadfastly deny it. You and I think we are not influenced, but Veronica looking at us from above can prove that we are."
Like most of his ethics colleagues, Rennie, 61, did not leap at but slowly gravitated to the field. Trained in nephrology (the study of kidneys) at the University of London and Johns Hopkins, he eventually managed to combine his vocational specialty with his avocational passion--high-altitude climbing--to become an expert on altitude sickness. Throughout the sixties and seventies, in dozens of expeditions in the Andes, the Himalayas, the Alps, the Yukon and in Alaska, Rennie documented the physiological effects of low-oxygen environments. A 1981 hip injury on Mt. McKinley squelched that intense phase of his life, but he took away from his mountain years a profound lesson in morality. "Really serious climbing teaches you a lot about integrity," he says. "It's so basic--do you abandon someone or not when you think you're going to die? Do you cut the rope? Do you make an effort to get food up to those people? There are a lot of very stark things that climbing teaches which I've found very painful to learn, because I haven't always made the right choices."
In 1977 Rennie went to work for Arnold "Bud" Relman at the New England Journal of Medicine. In Relman, Rennie found a mentor for what would become the next distinguished phase of his career. At first, the education was simply in the art of scientific editing. Interest in the integrity of scientific literature came later and was driven by a series of unfortunate events. "I came into this role very slowly," he says. "It took a long time for me to even accept that there was such a thing as scientific misconduct."
His terrifying introduction to the subject came in 1979 in the form of a letter to the Journal containing incontrovertible proof that two Yale researchers, Vijay Soman and Philip Felig, had committed plagiarism. Not long after that, a well-respected Harvard researcher, John Darsee, was caught falsifying electrocardiogram data. "When I heard that there was a problem with Darsee," says Rennie, "I rushed to the Journal. We had just published this amazing article by him. I looked at it again and said to myself, 'Oh, we're all right. He's got a co-author and he thanked three other authors at the end of the article.' Well, it was later shown that every single piece of data in that article was invented. He even invented the doctors at the end."
Today, Rennie is JAMA's West Coast deputy editor. The Synthroid case is his latest fascination because, he says, it so clearly illustrates the starkly differing agendas of industry and the academy. "This was a good study," he says. "The best study that had been published on the subject. [The company] went to extraordinary efforts to discredit it, and by extraordinary I mean that there were accusations that can ruin a scientist's career."
Indeed, when the research that Boots/Knoll had funded produced results that could potentially have cost it billions, Knoll accused Dong not only of sloppy research but also of serious ethical violations (none of which have been substantiated). Those accusations continue to this day. "We thought we had contracted with a qualified researcher," Carter Eckert told me during my visit to Knoll. "She didn't follow the protocol. Her methods were flawed. She drew erroneous conclusions and she didn't provide all the information on what she discovered."
While there does seem to be an honest scientific disagreement at the heart of the controversy, it's just as clear that the company exploited that difference well beyond propriety. "What Boots tried to do," says Leslie Benet, chairman of pharmaceutical chemistry at UCSF and one of the leading bioequivalency experts in the United States, "was to come in and create confusion as best they could--anything to delay or prevent the publication of this study. So they raised a lot of issues. They had a catalogue of a hundred and something issues. The great majority of it was grandstanding, what we call 'data scrubbing'--trying to find something to cause a problem."
Knoll also used its near-omnipotence in the thyroid community to keep the study under wraps, Rennie says. Perhaps the most vivid illustration of this came when the American Thyroid Association considered a resolution urging the company to allow the study to be published. "That vote was on an absolute no-brainer, which was, 'Should we, as the Thyroid Association, write to the manufacturer and say, Please publish this paper?' I can't think of any easier question. It's a matter of basic academic freedom. And it was turned down. That is most extraordinary." One inescapable conclusion is that the defeat had something to do with the fact that Knoll provides more than 60 percent of the Thyroid Association's funding. Indeed, Rennie claims that three people present for the fateful vote later told him that as they considered the proposition, one member openly remarked, "We mustn't kill the golden goose."
"Universities exist to do research, and research exists to benefit mankind," Rennie says. "Companies have an additional and different agenda--making profit. Though they may be experts and though you may have read papers by them and so on, their strings are pulled by the marketers. And that's forgotten by academics." Weeks later, in a follow-up phone conversation, I ask Rennie if the Dong-Synthroid affair is the worst case of private abuse of public research that he has ever seen. He laughs. "David, I've got a house full of files with important cases of abuse. This is just one example. There are many others. Extreme examples like faking whole papers draw attention, but trimming, skewing, using the wrong analysis, using the more favorable analysis or just muddling a little bit is certainly much more common and a far, far bigger problem."
For precisely fifty years, the US government has funded, on our behalf, a stunning volume of academic scientific research, mostly through the umbrella bureaucracy of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The expenditures have also been spectacular in their consistency. In sharp contrast to almost all other federal spending on research and development, spending on academic science has steadily increased through deficits, recessions, wars and even our recent political devolution. The latter half of the twentieth century of US history might ultimately be as well-known for its commitment to basic scientific research as for any other endeavor.
As the United States began to convert its economy after World War II, a conviction emerged among the elite that the nation's future success would depend largely on scientific progress. The spur came from the legendary Vannevar Bush, director of the wartime Office of Scientific Research and Development and overseer of the Manhattan Project. In July 1945 Bush submitted to President Truman a report titled "Science: The Endless Frontier," which pleaded with Truman to make science a permanent national priority. "Without scientific progress," Bush wrote, "no amount of achievement in other directions can insure our health, prosperity, and security as a nation in the modern world."
Bush's expectation of science's importance to society has of course proven entirely correct. America's enthusiastic public support for research has helped make it the world's undisputed leader in public health. Part of that success is due to the fact that science was not only well funded for so long but also had the independence to pursue its own ends. "Investigators did not have to prove the short-term applicability of their work," explains Harvard's Blumenthal, "because they did not have to rely on sponsors, such as industry, with such short-term orientations."
The implicit pact between scientists and legislators that allowed for such a long leash was that research dollars would, eventually, help treat and cure disease, something any constituency could appreciate. In part because the postwar economy was performing so well in other areas, there was no particular expectation of economic benefits from this federal largesse for several decades. American industry was too busy manufacturing to bother with discovery. Throughout the fifties and sixties, private industry generated less than 4 percent of all university research funding. This "certainly did not prevent the transfer of useful technologies from universities to biomedical industries," remarks Blumenthal. "But it did result in less direct interaction between academic scientists and industrial organizations."
In the late seventies, as the economy faltered and strong foreign competition emerged from Japan and Western Europe, the institutional separation between academia and industry came under critical scrutiny, as both industry and government began to view academic science as an untapped economic resource. Many potentially lucrative discoveries, it was thought, were foundering in the laboratory. In 1980 Congress passed the Bayh-Dole Act, which allowed researchers and universities to patent discoveries from federally funded research. With such legal protection, entrepreneurs would be able to take the development risks necessary to bring discoveries to market. Since almost everything on campus depends on Washington funding, at least in part, Bayh-Dole effectively lifted a ban on campus entrepreneurship, thus allowing academic scientists to take an active role in the private applications of their research.
The Federal Technology Transfer Acts of 1986 and 1989 strengthened market incentives even further, allowing researchers, for example, to keep proprietary information secret. This suite of legislation reflected the increasingly popular notion that government research was useful mainly as an economic seed. "There are also times when a field of research no longer needs the Government as nursemaid," the New York Times editorialized in 1985. "The rich flow of venture capital into biotechnology means the Government need no longer support that element of biomedical research so heavily." Between these lines, one can see the rebirth of a familiar laissez-faire refrain: What's good for Pfizer is good for everyone.
That sentiment would probably sound about right to Knoll Pharmaceutical president Carter Eckert. "The whole concept of this conflict--it ain't there," he said. "Not in the pharmaceutical business. The stakes are too high. It's absolutely insane to take the position that a pharmaceutical company is going to win by not pursuing the truth. Ultimately, the patients have to use the drug." In Eckert's view, then, the marketplace is the ultimate consumer watchdog. After all, he says, no one's going to make much money selling something that doesn't work.
That's true enough. On the other hand, the profit motive might encourage a company to suppress or distort positive findings on competing products--or, for that matter, simply to keep some data secret. A 1997 survey by David Blumenthal revealed that among companies that sponsor academic research, 58 percent require their investigators to withhold results for more than six months--far longer than the two months the NIH considers reasonable. In that same survey, a third of the academic respondents said they had been denied access to research results of other university scientists.
Ultimately, such secrecy costs not just dollars but also lives: Renowned NIH cancer researcher Stephen Rosenberg reports that he has, on several occasions, been unable to obtain important data and lab materials because he would not agree to strict proprietary rules of secrecy. When anything undermines the open sharing of all research data, laments Blumenthal, "researchers unknowingly build on something less than the total accumulation of scientific knowledge." Ineffective or even dangerous drugs are not revealed as such at the earliest possible moment; avenues of research already known to be fruitless by some are needlessly pursued by others, wasting money and time and ultimately hindering scientific progress.
The walls in Rennie's small office are lined with stark photographs of peaks, glaciers and very cold people. "One of the great things about being a climber," Rennie says with a gesture to one wall, "is that you keep falling off things and getting frozen. You end up in hospitals. You become a patient." He laughs. "It's my job, and Blumenthal's and Krimsky's and Bero's, to look at research from the patient's point of view, to ask, 'Can I trust this?' You can talk about caveat emptor, buyer beware, but patients are emptors that can't caveat because they don't know how. When you are a patient, it's not like buying a Toyota. Patients don't know how to choose their own anesthetic."
Such profoundly important medical decisions are made by hospital boards based on the best scientific research available. The problem is, argues Rennie, that as universities continue to let industry money dilute their nonprofit, nonpartisan character, they do so at the risk of frittering away public confidence. "The bottom line for universities that they haven't fully understood," he says, "is that in the end, public universities have to rely on public support. If the public perceives a university as a place where scientists become millionaires and where companies are in control, they'll lose public support, and that will be catastrophic for them and for the public at large. People will say, 'Well, he's got a bigger house than I have and a better car, and I don't seem to be getting any of the action at all. Why should I support or do anything to help those jerks? They're just a rich business concern.' Universities have to have credibility and be above the fray."
Princeton's Sinisgalli agrees. "Universities are having difficulty all the way along the line," he says. "We cannot allow ourselves to blur our role. It's not only a matter of conflict of interest but also of conflict of commitment and time." Although industry-sponsored research on his campus has risen sixfold in recent years as a portion of total research dollars, it's only at about half the national average. Further, Princeton retains what may be the strictest industry-sponsorship policies in the country: no developmental research; no testing; no ownership stake allowed for any company sponsoring campus research. "For a while, a lot of people thought we were a little behind the curve," says Sinisgalli. "Now, I think some people are looking at our cautiousness and saying, 'Maybe they were right.' They are rethinking it because there are so many conflicts."
One obvious move that bioethicists would like to see is a lot more public disclosure. While most of the top research institutions have disclosure guidelines in place, many could be more stringent. Conferences and journals have also been edging toward more disclosure, but many refuse to budge. Nature, for example, insisted in an editorial two years ago that the 1996 report by Sheldon Krimsky revealing that a third of authors surveyed had a financial interest in the research "makes no claim that the undeclared interests led to any fraud, deception, or bias in presentation, and until there is evidence that there are serious risks of such malpractice, this journal will persist in its stubborn belief that research as we publish it is indeed research, not business."
Nature's position of shielding conflicts of interest from public view is ridiculous on its face, and, in an era of so many financial entanglements, a threat to the integrity of science. The starkness of the problem was revealed last year in a New England Journal of Medicine survey of authors who had published studies on calcium channel blockers. "The medical profession needs to develop a more effective policy on conflict of interest," the Journal survey concluded. How did it arrive at such a blunt determination? It turned out that while just 3 percent of the calcium channel authors surveyed had publicly disclosed potential conflicts of interest, the percentage of those who should have--that is, the percentage of those who publicly favored the drug and had a financial relationship with the manufacturers--was a bit higher: 96.

David Shenk (www.bigfoot.com/~dshenk), who lives in Brooklyn, is the author of Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut (HarperSan Francisco) and the forthcoming book of essays The End of Patience (Indiana).

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[Essay from Harper's Magazine, December, 1997]

Biocapitalism: What Price the Genetic Revolution?
by David Shenk

About a year ago, my wife phoned to say that something might be wrong with our unborn child. A blood test suggested the possibility of Down syndrome, and the doctor was recommending amniocentesis and genetic counseling. As it happened, I was almost finished writing a book about the paradoxical nature of information technology--the strange realization that more, faster, even better information can sometimes do more harm than good. When my wife's obstetrician reported the alarming news, it seemed as though the God of Technology was already looking to settle the score. The doctor, after all, was merely reading from a computer printout. Test results poured over us in a gush of formulas and statistics. My wife's blood contained such-and-such a ratio of three fetal hormones, which translated statistically into a such-and-such increased chance of our child having an extra chromosome, a forty-seventh, which can cause severely limited intellectual capacity, deformed organs and limbs, and heart dysfunction. The amniocentesis would settle the matter for certain, allowing a lab technician to count the fetus's actual chromosomes. But there was a dark statistical specter here, too, a chance that the procedure itself would lead to a spontaneous miscarriage whether the fetus was genetically abnormal or not. Testing a healthy fetus to death: many times in the days ahead, I wondered if I could come to terms with that ultracontemporary brand of senselessness. The computer thought it a risk worth taking: the chance of miscarriage was slightly lower than the chance of discovering Down syndrome. My wife and I put our faith in the computer.
Few of these details will seem familiar to parents of children born before this decade; nor will any parents of children born after, say, 2010 face our specific predicament. The discoveries in the field have been generating one astonishing headline after another about genes related to Alzheimer's, breast cancer, epilepsy, osteoporosis, obesity, and even neurosis; the fetal-genetics revolution is now so accelerated that remarkable technologies become obsolete almost as quickly as they are invented. Although the "triple marker" blood test was invented in the late 1980s, it probably will be a historical footnote a decade or so from now. So will amniocentesis. Both will be replaced by a genetic sampling of fetal cells extracted from the mother's blood, a test that will be risk free for both mother and fetus. That's hundreds of healthy fetuses every year who will not be lost just for the sake of a genetic snapshot. We will know much more for much less.
But the odd question arises: Will we know too much? Fetal and embryonic genetic karyotypes may ultimately be as legible as a topographical map: Your son will be born healthy; he will be allergic to cashews; he will reach five foot ten and a half inches; math will not come easily to him; in his later years, he will be at high risk for the same type of arteriosclerosis that afflicted his great-grandfather. Here are secrets from the heretofore indecipherable text "The Book of Man," the wishful term used by researchers to refer to the complete translation of human genetic information that they one day hope to acquire. Such a discovery is what C. S. Lewis foresaw when he warned, in a prescient 1944 essay The Abolition of Man, "The final stage is come when Man by eugenics, by prenatal conditioning . . . has obtained full control over himself."
I'm jumping ahead, far beyond present facts and into the future. "The Book of Man" will not be finished for some time, if ever. But with the U.S. government's staunch support of the Human Genome Project, the $3 billion mega-research sprint to map out and decode all of the estimated 100,000 human genes by the year 2005, genetic knowledge has suddenly become a national priority. It is this generation's race to the moon, but we're not quite sure what we'll do when we get there; what the dark side looks like most of us don't particularly want to imagine.
We're pursuing the human genome for good reasons, of course. With our new syllabus of genetic knowledge, we will become healthier and live longer. But even with the few facts that we now have, there is already cause to worry about the unintended consequences of acquiring such knowledge. If genes are the biological machine code-the soft ware--containing the instructions for each person's development and decay, unlocking that code portends the ability to fix the bugs and even to add new features. When people worry aloud that we may soon be "playing God," it's because no living creature has ever before been able to upgrade its own operating system.
Lewis suggests that such absolute biotechnological power is corruptive, that it robs humanity of its instinctive duty to posterity. "It is not that they are bad men," he writes of future genetic "Conditioners." "They are not men at all. Stepping outside the Tao"--that is, outside the moral order as dictated by Nature--"they have stepped into the void." Although not yet close to a moral void, we do, even at this primitive stage of biotechnology, effortlessly step outside the Tao. Consider, for example, that when my wife and I went in for amniocentesis, we did so with the tacit understanding that we would abort our child if we discovered that he or she was carrying the extra chromosome; otherwise, there would have been no point in risking miscarriage. The fact that we did not abort our child, that she was born healthy, with forty-six chromosomes and four chambers in her heart and two lungs and two long legs, is morally beside the point. We had made our if then choice to terminate. I suppose I'm glad I had the legal freedom to make that choice; I know, though, that I'm still haunted by the odd moral burden it imposed on me: Here is a preview of your daughter. If she's defective, will you keep her?
We all want a world without Down's and Alzheimer's and Huntington's. But when the vaccine against these disorders takes the form of genetic knowledge and when that knowledge comes with a sneak preview of the full catalogue of weaknesses in each of us, solutions start to look like potential problems. With the early peek comes a transfer of control from natural law to human law. Can the U.S. Congress (which seems intent on shrinking, not expanding, its dominion) manage this new enlarged sphere of influence? Can the churches or the media or the schools! To mention just one obvious policy implication of this biotechnological leap beyond the Tao: The abortion debate, historically an issue in two dimensions (whether or not Individuals should have the right to terminate a pregnancy), suddenly takes on a discomfiting third dimension. Should prospective parents who want a child be allowed to refuse a particular type of child?
From that perspective, I wonder if today's crude triple marker/amnio combination isn't just an early indication of the burdens likely to be placed on future generations of parents: the burden of knowing, the burden of choosing. I imagine my daughter, pregnant with her first child. The phone rings. The doctor has reviewed the karyotype and the computer analysis. He is sorry to report that her fetus is carrying a genetic marker for severe manic-depressive illness, similar in character to that of my great-uncle, who lived a turbulent and difficult life. Will she continue the pregnancy?
Or perhaps she is not yet pregnant. In keeping with the social mores of her day, she and her partner have fertilized a number of eggs in vitro, intending to implant the one with the best apparent chance for a successful gestation. The doctor calls with the karyotype results. It seems that embryos number 1 and 6 reveal a strong manic-depressive tendency. Will my daughter exclude them from possible implantation? The choice seems obvious, until the doctor tells her that embryos 1 and 6 are also quick-witted, whereas 2 and 3 are likely to be intellectually sluggish. The fourth and fifth embryos, by the way, are marked for ordinary intelligence, early-onset hearing impairment, and a high potential for aggressive pancreatic cancer. Which, if any, should be implanted?
Now add a plausible economic variable: Suppose that my daughter gets a registered letter the next day from her health maintenance organization, which also has seen the karyotype and the analysis (both of which they happily paid for). The HMO cannot presume to tell her which embryo to implant, but she should know that if she chooses to implant embryo number 1 or 6, the costs of her child's manic depression will not be reimbursed, ever. Now that the genetic marker is on the record, it is officially a "pre-existing condition"--in fact, the term has never been more appropriate.
Such are some of the specific scenarios now being bandied about by bioethicists, who, because of the Human Genome Project, are flush with thinking-cap money. Five percent of the project's funds (roughly $100 million over fifteen years) is being dedicated to social and ethical exploration, an allotment that prompted Arthur Caplan, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Bioethics, to celebrate the HGP as the "full-employment act for bioethicists." The Department of Energy, the National Institutes of Health, and the international Human Genome Organisation all have committees to study the social and ethical implications of genetic re search. Popping up frequently are essays and conferences with titles like "Human Gene Therapy: Why Draw a Line?" "Regulating Reproduction," and "Down the Slippery Slope." While genetic researchers plod along in their methodical dissection of chromosomes, bioethicists are leaping decades ahead, out of necessity. They're trying to foresee what kind of society we're going to be living in when and if the researchers are successful. In Sheraton and Marriott conference halls, they pose the toughest questions they can think of. If a single skin cell can reveal the emotional and physical characteristics of an individual, how are we going to keep such information private? At what level of risk should a patient be informed of the potential future onset of a disease? Will employers be free to hire and fire based on information obtained from their prospective employees' karyotypes? Should a criminal defendant be allowed to use genetic predisposition toward extreme aggressiveness as a legitimate defense, or at least as a mitigating factor in sentencing?(1) Should privately administered genetic tests be regulated for accuracy by the government? (Currently, they are not.) Should private companies be able to patent the gene sequences they discover? Should children of sperm donors have the right to know the identity and genetic history of their biological fathers? The only limitation on the number of important questions seems to be the imagination of the inquirer.
Most fundamental of all, though, are questions regarding the propriety of futuristic gene-based medical techniques. Suppose for a moment that the power to select on the basis of, and possibly even alter, our genetic code does, as many expect, turn out to be extensive. What sort of boundaries should we set for ourselves? Should infertile couples be allowed to resort to a clone embryo rather than adopt a biological stranger? Should any couple have the right to choose the blond-haired embryo over the brown-haired embryo? Homosexuality over heterosexuality?(2) Should we try to "fix" albinism in the womb or the test tube? Congenital deafness? Baldness? Crooked teeth? What about aortas that if left alone will likely give out after fifty-five years? Should doctors instead pursue a genetic procedure that would give the ill-fated embryo a heart primed for ninety-nine years?
To address these questions, bioethicists need to determine what competing interests are at stake. If a father wants a blue-eyed, stout-hearted son and is able to pay for the privilege, which will cause no harm to anyone else, what's the problem? Consider the prospect of a pop-genetics culture in which millions choose the same desirable genes. Thousands of years down the line, the diversity in the human gene pool could be diminished, which any potato farmer can tell you is no way to manage a species. While public policy generally arbitrates between individual rights and social responsibilities, genetics raises a new paradigm, a struggle between contemporary humanity and our distant descendants.
The considerable support for legislation that would suppress some of these technologies draws its strength from a sense of moral indignation as well as from the fear of an alien future. In a New Republic essay entitled "The Wisdom of Repugnance," University of Chicago philosopher Leon Kass argues for a permanent ban on human cloning, a ban grounded not in hysteria but in moral principle. "We are repelled by the prospect of cloning human beings not because of the strangeness or novelty of the undertaking," he writes, "but because we intuit and feel, immediately and without argument, the violation of things that we rightfully hold dear."
On the other end of the spectrum, some scientists argue against any boundaries, proposing that whatever we can do to better ourselves is not only ethically appropriate but also imperative. "The potential medical benefits of genetic engineering are too great for us to let nebulous fears of the future drive policy," argues Gregory Stock, director of the Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life at UCLA. Stock and others contend that we know better than Nature what we want out of life, and we owe it to ourselves and future generations to seek genetic improvement as a component of social progress. In his article "Genetic Modifications," for example, Anders Sandberg, a young Swedish scientist and self-described "Transhumanist," not only recommends the removal of genetic "defects" and such less harmful "undesirable traits" as drug abuse, aggression, and wisdom teeth but proposes a wide selection of enhancements to benefit the entire race. Systemic improvements would involve reprogramming cells to be more resistant to aging, toxins, and fat. "Cosmetic modifications" would be the plastic surgery for the next millennium--alteration of hair color/texture, eye color, skin color, muscular build, and so on. Sandberg even fancies deluxe new features such as built-in molecular support for frozen cryonic suspension. We can chuckle now at the improbability of these ideas, but when we do we might also try to imagine how people might have reacted 150 years ago (before electricity, before the telegraph) to someone suggesting that people in the late twentieth century would routinely converse with people on other continents using portable devices the same size and weight as an empty coin purse. "It basically means that there are no limits," Princeton biologist Lee Silver remarked after the announcement of Dolly, the cloned sheep. "It means all of science fiction is true. They said it could never be done and now here it is, done before the year 2000."
The attitude within the ranks of the Human Genome Project community is, not surprisingly, quite a bit more conservative than Sandberg's. Nowhere in the project summaries will an affiliated researcher be found yearning publicly for a world filled with fat-proof, freezable people (although no one seems to have misgivings about any conceivable genetic engineering of pigs, cows, or other nonhumans). More modestly, the stated hopes for the application of gene mapping include a greater understanding of DNA and all biological organisms; new techniques for battling genetic diseases; a new prevention-oriented type of medicine, and a windfall for agribusiness and other biotech industries.
The fact that researchers are careful to limit their publicly stated goals reflects not so much a deeply ingrained social ethic, says Arthur Caplan, as a canny political awareness. "If uncertainty about what to do with new knowledge in the realm of genetics is a cause for concern in some quarters," he writes in the book Gene Mapping, "then those who want to proceed quickly with mapping the genome might find it prudent to simply deny that any application of new knowledge in genetics is imminent or to promise to forbear from any controversial applications of this knowledge.... [This] is the simplest strategy if one's aim is not applying new knowledge but merely to be allowed to proceed to acquire it." Caplan thus exposes a built-in tension between researchers and ethicists. Ethicists are paid to arouse concern, but researchers lose funding if too many people get too worried.
Spotlighting the personal motivations of their researcher counterparts might seem a little beyond the purview of bioethicists, but in fact bioethicists are obliged, as part of the exploration of propriety, to not only hope for the ideal social circumstances of genetic engineering but also to consider the more probable landscape for it, an approach we might call Real Ethik. To simply declare certain procedures immoral and call for an immediate and permanent ban is to ignore brazenly the history of technology, one lesson of which might fairly be summarized as "If it can be done, it will be done." E.g., the atomic bomb. The genie found its way out of that bottle in short order, almost instantaneously revolutionizing the way we think about conflict. Real Ethik dictates that other genies will escape from their bottles no matter what we do to stop them. Glenn McGee, a Caplan protege at the University of Pennsylvania and the architect of what he calls a "pragmatic approach" to genetics, argues that while we may be able to revolutionize our technology, there is no escape from human nature. We're wasting our time, says McGee, huffing and puffing about an international ban on human cloning. "Get over it. It's not going to happen. We are fundamentally in an unpoliceable realm." Human cloning will occur, probably in Chelsea Clinton's lifetime. And considering the current trajectory of genetic research, so will a host of other exotic and frightening developments.
If one accepts McGee's worldview, genethical considerations shift abruptly from policies of stark authorization/prohibition to a web of regulation and incentive, from ultimatums to real diplomacy, from grandstanding to nuance and compromise. Instead of regarding advanced genetic engineering as taboo, as a eugenic catastrophe waiting to happen, one plunges straight into the facts, and works to maximize the general social welfare and to minimize harm. From the pragmatic perspective, the warning about "playing God" is a distracting irrelevance, since we're already playing God in so many ways. In Escondido, California, for example, the Repository for Germinal Choice, a.k.a. the "Nobel sperm bank," collects and distributes sperm from an exclusive group of extraordinary men--top athletes, scientists, executives, and so on. A number of clinics in the United States now enable prospective parents to sex-select their children in advance of fertilization, sorting "male" (Y chromosome) sperm from "female" (X chromosome) sperm according to their volume and electrical charge, with an estimated success rate of 90 percent.
What about the horrifying prospect that parents might react irresponsibly to the genetic sneak preview of their fetus or embryo? That genie has escaped already, too. In what has become a powerful cautionary tale in bioethicist circles, an American couple was advised recently that their fetus had a rare extra chromosome that would not cause a debilitating disease like Down syndrome but that potentially, possibly, was linked to tall stature, severe acne, and aggressive even criminally aggressive--behavior. The couple responded to this information by aborting their child. Their decision was ice water in the face of bioethicists, who concluded that the couple should not have been informed of the unusual, vague condition. The hard truth, says McGee, is that "when given the opportunity, people can do things that are inappropriate and unwise."
This inescapable element of human nature is why industrialized societies that respect the basic freedoms of their citizens nonetheless impose so many niggling restrictions on them--speed limits, gun control, waste-disposal regulations, food-and-drug preparation guidelines, and so on. As technologies advance further, conferring even more power and choice on the individual--the abilities to travel at astonishing rates of speed, to access and even manipulate vital pieces of information, to blow up huge structures with little expertise--societies will have no option but to guard against new types of abuse. Real Ethik is, therefore, inevitably a prescription for aggressive and complex government oversight of society and its powerful new tools.
Scratch the surface of both the information and biotech revolutions, in fact, and what one discovers underneath is a "control revolution," suggests political theorist Andrew Shapiro, a massive transfer of power from bureaucracies to individuals and corporations. In an unregulated control revolution, free markets and consumer choice become even more dominant forces in society than they already are, and in virtually every arena social regulation gives way to economic incentive. Unrestrained consumerism augments the ubiquitousness of pop culture and the free-for-all competition for scarce resources. Ultimately, even such social intangibles as privacy become commodified.
The unpleasant extremes of this climate are not very difficult to imagine: an over-class buying itself genetic immunity from industrial waste, leaving the working class gasping in its wake; conglomerates encoding corporate signatures onto genetic products, rendering competing products ineffective and enforcing the ultimate brand loyalty; parents resorting to all available legal means to ensure their kids can compete effectively, including attempts to, in the parlance of the Repository for Germinal Choice, "get the best possible start in life." In the absence of legal restrictions, one envisions the development of a free-market eugenic meritocracy--or, to coin a term, biocapitalism. If left up to the marketplace, designer genes could even allow the wealthy to pass on not only vast fortunes but also superior bioengineered lineages, thereby exacerbating class divisions.
With that-much freedom and independence, the paradoxical question one must finally ask is: Can freedom and independence, as we know them, survive? The genetic revolution may well deliver the apex of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," but it seems destined to conflict with another bedrock American principle. Two centuries after it was first proclaimed, we still abide by the conceit--the "self-evident" truth--that "all men are created equal." We know, of course (as did our founding fathers), that this is not literally true: people are born with more, less, and different varieties of strength, beauty, and intelligence. Although we frequently celebrate these differences culturally, from a political and legal standpoint we choose to overlook them. For the purposes of sustaining a peaceful, just, and functional society, we are all considered equal.
An unregulated, unrestricted genetic revolution, by highlighting our physical differences and by allowing us to incorporate them in our structures of enterprise, might well spell the end of this egalitarian harmony. In this pre-genetics era, we are all still external competitors, vying for good jobs, attractive mates, comfortable homes. After the revolution has begun in earnest, much of the competition will likely take place under the skin. We will compete for better code. Such a eugenic culture, even one grounded in a democracy, will inevitably lead to the intensified recognition and exaggeration of certain differences. In a newly human-driven evolution, the differences could become so great that humans will be literally transformed into more than one species. But even if this doesn't happen, our thin metaphysical membrane of human solidarity might easily rupture under the strain. "The mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs," Thomas Jefferson wrote two centuries ago, "nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them . . ." Who today can consider the momentum of genetic research and be confident that in another two centuries Jefferson's words will still hold true?



DAVID SHENK is author of "Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut" and "The End of Patience." He can be reached at  dshenk@bigfoot.com. Read more of his work at his smog-free home page: www.bigfoot.com/~dshenk.