How Regulation Has Destroyed Entire Sectors of Biotechnology

Interview with Henry I. Miller (M.S., M.D. Senior Fellow, Pacific Research Institute San Francisco, California). Recorded at the 15th Gottfried-von-Haberler Conference 2019 in Vaduz.

 Summary of Henry I. Miller’s talk at the G. von Haberler Conference:
“Tales of Woe: How Regulation Has Destroyed Entire Sectors of Biotechnology”

Modern biotechnology, also known as “genetic engineering (GE)” or “genetic modification (GM),” has in less than four decades produced monumental scientific, economic, and humanitarian advances in medicine and agriculture.  But over-regulation and the aggressive antagonism of self-interested activists have prevented it from realizing anything close to its potential.  Indeed, entire sectors of genetic engineering have been decimated, including GE animals, bioremediation (the cleanup of toxic wastes), development of bio-rational pesticides, prevention of frost damage to crops, and prevention of insect-borne diseases.
Ill-founded concerns about the risks of molecular techniques for genetic modification gave rise to regulation triggered simply by the “process,” or technique, rather than the “product,” i.e., the characteristics of the modified organism. This was an unfortunate precedent, whose legacy plagues regulation worldwide today.
Had they not been stymied by wrong-headed, unscientific regulation, many sectors of biotechnology had the potential to create the Next Big Thing. If we are to unleash the ingenuity of scientists in academia and industry in future, we will need enlightened public policy that takes into consideration the centuries-long seamless continuum in the technologies for genetic improvement of all manner of organisms. This must include sweeping regulatory reform to craft regulation that is scientifically defensible and risk-based.

Recording of Henry I. Miller’s talk: 

*Henry I. Miller held his talk at the 15th International Gottfried-von-Haberler Conference which took place on May 17, 2019 in Vaduz, at University of Liechtenstein. Conference Topic: “When Naive Presumptions prompt Hasty Judgments: On the Benefits and Problems of Genetic Engineering” (German: “Wenn Vermutungen zum Urteil werden: Die Gentechnologie am Pranger”). The event was organized and hosted by ECAEF – European Center of Austrian Economics Foundation.