House Committee Passes Recombinant DNA Bill

A Congressional House committee yesterday approved with only minor changes a bill regulating recombinant DNA research, moving the bill one step closer to consideration by the full House.

The bill contains a controversial "pre-emption clause," establishing a Federal standard as the regulator of recombinant DNA research, rather than a local one.

Dr. George Hardy, a staffer for the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, said yesterday the pre-emption clause contains two conditions for the state or local government to establish its own guidelines: the local guidelines must be the same or more stringent than the federal ones, and the change must be necessary to protect local health or environmental conditions.

Harvard officials, as well as representatives for other universities, have lobbied intensively for passage of the pre-emption clause.

Donald C. Moulton, a consultant working for Harvard on the DNA issue, said yesterday, "We are pleased with the bill, and think it is acceptable."


At It Again...

Opponents of the pre-emption clause yesterday criticized Harvard's lobbying efforts on behalf of federal control of standards.

Robert Kerr, a staffer for Rep. Andrew McGuire (D-N.J.), said yesterday, "It was a very good lobbying job by Harvard--as effective as any interest group going after its own needs and reasonably oblivious to the public interest."

Moulton said yesterday, "The whole issue has been of high interest to the University, and so we have done what we can to present our point of view."

"There is much honest disagreement about what the public interest is," he added.

Mayor Thomas W. Danehy could not be reached for comment last night.

Opponents of pre-emption yesterday expressed anger at the way Rep. Harley O. Staggers (D-W.Va.), chairman of the committee, conducted the vote on pre-emption.


Pam Lippe, legislative assistant for Friends of the Earth, said yesterday Staggers called a "voice vote" on the clause and then Rep. Marc Marks (R-Pa.) "called for a roll call vote and Staggers ignored him."

Kerr said Stagger's handling of the pre-emption vote was "one of the crudest, dumbest charades I have ever seen."

Moulton said he believes Staggers did not hear Marks's request because Moulton "talked to people present at the committee meeting who said they did not hear Marks, and they were people sitting close to him."

Kerr said, however, that he did not believe Staggers tried to force through the pre-emption clause because Staggers had the necessary proxy voted--votes of absent committee members--to win a roll call on the pre-emption clause.

Senate Version

The Senate version of the bill, introduced March 1, does not contain a pre-emption clause, but Burke Zimmerman, a staff member of the House Subcommittee on Health and Environment, said yesterday many powerful Senators want to include pre-emption in the Senate version.

The Senate is waiting to see the House version before it takes action, Zimmerman added.