BIOHAZARD by Michael Rogers
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Asilomar is the name of a California conference center of rustic lodges, redwoods, and splendid ocean views. It is also a name which will live in fame or infamy as the site of the 1975 meeting of the world's leading molecular biologists. They had gathered together to decide on a program of self-monitoring of recombinant DNA research. Rolling Stones correspondent Michael Rogers was there and at many a subsequent committee meeting of those charged with drawing up federal guidelines. He writes a you-are-there narrative sparked with quotes, personality sketches, descriptions of storms and impasses. A neophyte at the start, Rogers boned up on genetics so he could understand the issues. He is, understandably, less than sympathetic toward fellow media men and women, academidans, and politicians who know not of what they speak. The book stands as part primer on the new genetics (you will want to read more), part straightforward account, and part judgment. Rogers is clearly on the side of the scientists who want to continue the research, recognize the problems, and argue for reasonable restraint. (The guidelines grade experiments in terms of potential biohazards, and prescribe safety standards and laboratory design accordingly.) Hindsight suggests that scientists should have been better prepared for the Dr. Frankenstein press they have so often gotten--but then most believe that the possibility of human genetic engineering is far beyond that blue California sky. There will be more books for and against what the DNA people are doing. Rogers' personal version--and June Goodfield's reflections (above)--mark an auspicious beginning.

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 1977
Publisher: Knopf