Peter Mostow


The federal regulation of biotechnology is governed by a comprehensive policy recently promulgated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy. This article examines and evaluates the developmental history and structure of this policy for biotechnology. It is the author's opinion that the present policy contains a series of suppositions which work to reduce the degree of information known about engineered organisms and the dangers they may pose. These suppositions are traced to two sources. First, to an excessive concern with the costs of regulation; and second, to an approach which seeks to solve problems of policy judgment through appeals to science. The author argues that this approach misdirects the regulation of engineered organisms, exempting too many of them from regulatory scrutiny. In conclusion, the author proposes means of reforming the policy so that the risk assessment process takes account of factors unique to genetically modified organisms and so that the risk management process is capable of tracking the global environmental effects of biotechnology without unduly hampering industry.