I wholeheartedly agree with this, and am an AAAS member who would help with the organizing, especially the outside publicity (which SftP chronically shied away from).
The past 2 years I've spent a considerable amount of time in the MIT archives with the Recombinant DNA oral history collection, listening to Stephen Jay Gould, Jonathan King, Paul Berg, David Baltimore, etc. and was blown away by how many of the SftP warnings and perspectives have come true today. For instance, The Guardian on July 30, 1980 published an article called "Profit Motive Key to DNA Research," by Kathy Yih, an SftP member, that could have been written yesterday for the WSJ.
Although I come at this topic from a communication science perspective, and I assure you that almost no one outside of students of Asilomar attendees or history of science folks can name what Asilomar stands for, and even less realize the key role that SftP had in bringing this topic into the light.
We are at the brink of a very similar situation with nanotechnology, and virtually no one is speaking up.
Let's do this!
----- Original Message -----
From: Michael Balter <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Tuesday, July 3, 2007 12:58 am
Subject: possible AAAS session topic: recombinant DNA remembered
To: [log in to unmask]
> Dear friends,
> Re the current discussion of a possible SftP-style session in Boston next
> February, I have one suggestion. February will mark the 33rd
> anniversary of
> the Asilomar conference on what we used to call recombinant DNA, and
> it has
> now been just over 30 years I think since the controversies in Cambridge
> (most notably) and elsewhere over the building of labs to carry out this
> research. Since SftP was very involved in all this, including I
> believe some
> of its original members who are on this list, and since the AAAS meeting
> will take place right where the action over this was thickest, a
> session on
> recombinant DNA and genetic engineering might attract a lot of people
> if it
> were properly publicized (and could be organized even if AAAS did not
> approve such a session, as a concurrent event that would take
> advantage of
> all the people who would be there.) I have my own ideas about what
> such a
> session would cover and how it would be organized, with which others here
> might not agree--but no matter, it could be done however we wanted. My
> perspective is that progressives were right to raise serious concerns
> basic issues such as the possibility that modified organisms might escape
> from the laboratory; that these issues were soon adopted or as some here
> might say coopted by more mainstream scientists; that the work went ahead
> albeit with containment safeguards that ultimately defused public concern;
> that the more serious dangers we warned about have not actually come to
> pass, eg epidemics of genetically modified microbes; that the basic
> techniques of genetic engineering have formed the basis of much or
> even most
> of the advances in biology over the past 30 years; but that the technology
> has also fallen into the hands of major corporations such as Monsanto
> et al
> such that concerns over GMOs and their regulation continue to be in the
> forefront; and that the ethical issues related to genetic engineering
> still very much with us.
> If such a session represented somewhat diverse viewpoints even within
> community of progressive scientists, it might be all the more interesting.
> As I say, you don't need to agree with my own views about these issues
> think this might be a good topic. One plus of doing this, btw, is that
> SftP was closely identified with this issue it would in a way "bring back"
> the old organization, and maybe the IRS would forgive us and let us
> use the
> name again one of these days. It was a long time ago, after all.
> Finally, I
> would suggest that we organize only one session at AAAS and not
> several. We
> no longer have an organization, after all, and organizing such things
> hard enough when you do have one.
> cheers, Michael
> Michael Balter
> Contributing Correspondent, Science
> [log in to unmask]