Back in the 1970s the awesome news that scientists had learned how to redesign genes started a regulatory flurry. Distinguished panels met to ask imponderable questions. Could some human-created form of life carry self-multiplying havoc into the world? How can we prevent such a disaster? Image: Courtesy DOE Human Genome Project. Back then genetic escapes were considered so likely that gene-splicing research was carried out in sealed labs. The citizens of Cambridge, Mass., home of Harvard and MIT, forbade such labs within their city limits. Congress debated dozens of bills to regulate genetic engineering. Then, suddenly, the concern disappeared. Genetic …
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