||The Biotechnology Industry Association is holding its annual meeting, BIO 2000, in the Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center in Boston today through Thursday. Prominent among the scheduled events are displays of new technologies and discussions of scientific and technical issues facing the industry.
Looking at the program, one would think that organizers had failed to read newspapers during the past year. Topics that have recently kept biotechnology in the spotlight in the United States and much of the rest of the world are almost completely absent from the conference sessions and symposiums. No mention is made of controversies over genetically modified organisms, patenting of compounds derived from local resources, use of indigenous knowledge without appropriate benefit sharing, cloning and cross-species transplantation, or experimental gene therapies halted by the Food and Drug Administration in recent months.
These are not trivial issues. Public acceptance of biotechnology requires the participation of a wide range of stakeholders in government and industry decision-making. Yet, the impressive array of speakers at this meeting comes almost exclusively from biotechnology companies, venture capital firms, law firms, or to a lesser degree, academia. A Global Roundtable will discuss biotech issues and challenges confronting both industrialized and developing countries, but once again the speakers are from similar select organizations.