The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine are assigned by Congress to provide policy guidance to the government…One of [the scientific] committees, though, is facing questions about how its members were selected. The concerns focus on a panel studying biotechnology….
Critics say that several committee members have financial ties to biotech businesses that could color the panel’s report, expected to be published soon, potentially giving short shrift to health and environmental worries.
The criticism adds to the heated debate about how federal regulators are handling the fast development of biotechnology.
The National Academies have defended the panel…as well as the current panel on biotechnology, saying that the type of expertise needed to staff them is limited and thus some conflict must be tolerated.
But people with ties to the academies say any perceived conflicts of interest may undermine some of the group’s authority.
“There’s often a lot riding on what the academies say, and so their ability to act with objectivity and independence defines any value they have,” said Dr. Harvey Fineberg, a former leader of what is now the medical division of the National Academies.
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