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Businessweek Archives

Hopes And Hazards Of The Biotech Century

Readers Report


I would like to add one observation to your fine article on "The Biotech Century" (Special Report, Mar. 10). The essential feature of the biotech revolution is that it is converting medicine from an empirical guessing game into a bona fide science. Every technical field goes through this transition. When it does, advances occur at an unimaginable pace. The critical moment comes when a scientific area goes from trial-and-error to prediction based on knowledge of the inner mechanisms and principles at work. We are now on that threshold in the medical field.

Charles J. Bodenstab

Excelsior, Minn.

The possibility of cloning the human species raises grave concerns. Will there be anybody to control or regulate the outcomes of such research in order to avoid unpredictable catastrophes? Or will it even be possible, considering our experience trying to regulate nuclear proliferation or cyberspace? The consequences of human cloning will certainly be much worse than the problems we encounter with computer hacking or virus infestation. Our experience in cyberspace should give us an indication of the possibilities and the problems associated with human cloning.

Joseph K. Chemplavil

Hampton, Va.

BUSINESS WEEK's complete embrace of the "Biotech Century" conveniently ignored many of the horrific failures associated with genetic-engineering and cloning, and it glossed over the complex ethical issues involved in tampering with life.

This "revolution brewing in the lab" has already produced its share of problems. Most Americans are wary of genetically engineered products and cloned animals. There should be an immediate moratorium on the cloning of animals--including the splicing of human genes into animals--pending a full public debate on the ethical and environmental consequences of this new and troubling technology. And there must be a complete ban on the cloning of human beings. Any other policy is irresponsible and potentially dangerous.

Ronnie Cummins

National Director

Pure Food Campaign

WashingtonReturn to top


"The Ex-Im Bank: Caught in the swirl of Donorgate" (International Business, Mar. 10) contained inaccuracies concerning the Export-Import Bank and its finances. Ex-Im's net income is not, as you reported, based on a reduction in reserves to cover future losses. The bank's portfolio is not becoming riskier--it was less risky at the end of fiscal 1996 than at the end of fiscal 1995.

The agency has not used accounting gimmicks. Ex-Im Bank Director Maria L. Haley did not improperly push the staff to approve a questionable transaction. Maria Haley is a valued colleague, and I can state unequivocally that I have never known her to intervene inappropriately in the due consideration of any transactional or policy matters by the bank.

We carry out our market-driven mission by supporting financial transactions that often involve sophisticated credit judgments. This means that we are not able to hide the quality of our decision-making. Our processes have to be principled and transparent. The results of our decisions will necessarily speak for themselves. The facts (as reflected in our financial statements) show that both exporters and the taxpayers are well served.

Martin A. Kamarck

President and Chairman

Export-Import Bank of the U.S.


Having read BUSINESS WEEK's piece on the Export-Import Bank, I find it necessary to correct your assumptions about James A. Harmon's qualifications to run this agency.

I have known Jim Harmon for many years. He is a man of great intellect and integrity, and one who has an excellent grasp of international finance and world affairs. These are the credentials that make him ideal for this post. He is an extraordinarily talented and successful businessman. With the same determination and genius Mr. Harmon brings to his business enterprises, he has proved an immensely effective civic leader.

While it's a good thing to scrutinize the actions of our public officials, let us not become so cynical that we discourage experienced and honorable people from entering public service by overlooking obvious talent. Your article quotes a Senate aide stating that credibility was a major concern for this post. It seems to me that those in business, academia, government, and the civic arena clearly find Mr. Harmon credible and a credit to our nation.

David N. Dinkins

Professor in the Practice

of Public Affairs

Columbia University

New York

Editor's note: James Harmon was a fund-raiser and financial adviser for former New York Mayor David Dinkins.Return to top

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