March 21, 1997

Your editorial "Dolly is just cloning around" (THES, February 28) states "the public has a right to expect its elected governments to consider when, why and how technologies should be controlled, and to be part of that debate".

Members of parliament could not agree more, and at the conclusion of its inquiry into human genetics, the select committee on science and technology recommended that the Government should establish a body, which should not be dominated by interested parties, to monitor work in human genetics and related fields and consider public concerns about that work.

The committee noted that such a body "would not circumscribe the power of Parliament to act on issues where there was real concern", just as the existence of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has not prevented members proposing changes in legislation. The committee was so convinced such a body was necessary to ensure public confidence that it held a second inquiry when this recommendation was rejected. This persuaded the Government to establish the Human Genetics Advisory Commission. At the outset, the commission was asked to "give early consideration as to how it can make itself open to wider public views".

The commission met for the first time last week and considered the case of Dolly, among other issues. The press also has a role to play, in ensuring the public are aware of the ways in which they can register their views; although there were delays in establishing the commission, it was in place long before last week. It is regrettable your leader did not see fit to mention it.

Jeremy Bray, MP, Science and technology committee House of Commons

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