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Tuesday, 27 June, 2000, 13:44 GMT 14:44 UK
World press hails genome success
DNA structure
DNA contains the secrets of 'the book of life'

There has been an enthusiastic welcome from many of the world's newspapers to the announcement that scientists have successfully mapped the human genetic code, or genome.

Many see the publication of the so-called 'book of life' as an achievement that ranks alongside previous milestones in history such as the first landing on the moon and the invention of the printing press.

Among European papers, the Spanish daily Diario 16 applauds the mapping of the genome as "a unique historic event that marks a high point in the progress of mankind, a qualitative scientific leap forward that opens the door to revealing the mystery of life".

Scientists raced to complete the genome

"It will no longer be science fiction," Italy's Il Messaggero says, "to imagine technologies capable of preventing illnesses and curing, even before birth, genetic malformations".

Il Messaggero continues: "This is a project which, in the opinion of many scientists, is more important than the splitting of the atom or landing on the Moon".

France's Le Figaro sees it in a similar light, and describes the 'book of life' as "the completion of a veritable Apollo-style programme in biology". However, Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung hedges its bets with the headline "Human Genome Almost Decoded".

This is a project more important than the splitting of the atom or landing on the Moon

Il Messaggero

The completion of the human genetic map is "the most significant scientific achievement in years," says Taiwan's United Daily News.

In South Korea, newspapers believe the completion of the genome will set off a race between the country's corporations and research institutes to apply the discovery commercially.

Just the beginning

In the United States, where President Bill Clinton announced the discovery in a live satellite link-up with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, theNew York Times gives the story a banner headline across its front page.

Clinton and Blair
Mr Clinton and Mr Blair praised the achievement

But the New York daily points out that the mapping of the genome is just the beginning.

"Now comes the difficult part: putting the genome to work," the paper says.

US-based Wired News, which specialises in science and technology, says that the publication of a complete genome map "promises to improve human health", but it says it also raises many public concerns.

Several German papers focus on such issues.Die Welt says more questions are raised than answered. The discovery "will not just change medicine", it says, "but all fields of society and they will demand that we answer ethical questions of a so far unimaginably explosive force".

Ethical questions

The paper goes on to list some of these questions, such as: "To what extent can people afford to prolong life expectancy on the already over-populated planet Earth?"

Munich's Suddeutsche Zeitung is worried about public access to the human genome data. It would be "fatal", the paper says, if private companies were allowed to claim exclusive rights to any of the code.

It warns that "human genes must not become an object that is open to market speculation just like shares".

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See also:

27 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
Genetic revolution work begins
26 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
Scientists crack human code
26 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Leaders' genetic code warning
26 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
What they said: Genome in quotes
26 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
Gene row is over
26 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
G-Day for biology
03 Dec 99 | Sci/Tech
Book of life: Chapter one
30 May 00 | Human genome
Genome: rights and wrongs
30 May 00 | Human genome
What the genome can do for you
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