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Amherst to Consider Ban on DNA Research; Delayed Part Stalls Completion of DNA Lab

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A student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst has placed a proposal to ban recombinant DNA research on the agenda of the next Amherst town meeting.

Paul Newlin proposed the ban to prohibit all research "that would produce a novel organism" until the "ethical and social implications" of such research have been considered.

In addition to banning recombinant DNA research, the proposal calls for an assessment of the dangers of DNA research and for the development of alternative methods of genetic research.

Paul L. Puryear, provost and vice-chancellor of academic affairs at UMass-Amherst, said the proposal is "very premature." Although there is currently no recombinant DNA research at UMass, there are two proposals for such research at the university.

These two projects would be delayed anyway until federal guidelines for DNA research are written, Puryear added.

William M. Hexter, professor of Biology at Amherst College, said the ban would only affect the plans of one Amherst professor, Patrick L. Williamson, professor of Biology.

Williamson said he had "just gotten started" with his plans and the College would have to set up a biohazards committee before any research can begin.

Diana H. Romer, chairman of the Amherst Board of Selectmen, said the range of opinion on the proposal was "predictable," adding that until two weeks ago, most Amherst residents "had no idea what recombinant DNA research was."

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