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BBC Scotland's John Knox reports
"The genetic genie can't be put back in the bottle"
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Friday, 20 April, 2001, 00:15 GMT 01:15 UK
Winston welcomes genetics funding
DNA structure
DNA contains the secrets of 'the book of life'
A top British scientist has welcomed more government funding to allow genetic testing to be available more widely on the NHS.

Lord Winston said the study of genetics was a "great force for good" but he stressed that more had to be done to address the public's concerns over the science of the human genome.

Professor Winston's comments came before he opened a four-day conference in Edinburgh on human genetics

Eight hundred scientists from across the world have gathered in the capital to discuss the latest advancements in genetic research.

Lord Winston
Lord Winston: "great force for good"
The last such event took place in Vancouver last year just as the first map of the 30,000 human genes was unveiled, revolutionising the whole field of genetics research.

This year the experts are concentrating on how to apply the new knowledge.

They will also discuss the law and ethics of genetics research and cloning.

Speaking before the conference, Lord Winston said: "I think one of the greatest tasks actually facing us at the moment is not the sequencing or the understanding of genes or their structures or indeed how genes are expressed.

"I think perhaps the greatest task facing genetics is trying to explain what is a very complex subject to the public, and to engage it and bring it on-side."

'Book of Life'

When the map of the human genome was flashed across television screens throughout the world last year, the achievement was likened to landing on the moon or inventing the wheel.

It was said that scientists would be able to look into the so-called "Book of Life" and target the treatment of diseases, grow new organs and even use the new knowledge to build a human being.

But this year the 800 scientists are meeting in a less euphoric atmosphere.

Scientists raced to complete the genome
They say that knowing the sequence of the genome does not tell us how things work.

The programme for the sixth annual meeting of the Human Genome Organisation (HUGO) confirms that a huge amount of commercial research is going on into the applications of the genome map.

It also betrays worries over the ethics of genetic engineering and whether there is the need for changes to the law on privacy, employment and insurance.

The conference is taking place at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

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See also:

11 Feb 01 | Sci/Tech
Genome 'treasure trove'
27 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
Genetic revolution work begins
26 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
Scientists crack human code
30 May 00 | Sci Tech
Genome: Rights and wrongs
30 May 00 | Human genome
What the genome can do for you
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