Genes `R' Us, Scientist Advises in Visit Here

Article excerpt

Americans need to become better informed about genes and how they work, one of the founding fathers of modern biology said here Friday.

"If they don't, they'll miss immeasurable opportunities to do things that would benefit many people," said the scientist, Francis Crick.

Genes make up the genetic blueprints of life, telling cells how to construct an animal or plant. Learning about genes will ease public fear of genetic engineering and lessen public resistance to applying genetic engineering in commercial products, Crick said in a visit to Monsanto Co.'s Life Sciences Research Center in Chesterfield.

Crick is an English physicist and biochemist based at the Salk Institute, a research center in La Jolla, Calif. He discovered the structure of DNA in the early 1950s with American biologist James Watson. DNA is a basic building block of genes.

The breakthrough revolutionized science and medicine, allowing researchers to explore the genetic blueprint of everything from viruses to humans. Crick and Watson won the Nobel Prize in 1962.

Crick spoke at a ceremony before about 600 employees at the Monsanto facility. He helped Monsanto's Robert Fraley dedicate a new visitors center that depicts the history and science of agriculture and biotechnology since 8000 B.C.

"This is a very important way of communicating to people about what we're doing and why it's important," said Fraley, who leads the company's plant biotechnology research.

Fraley called Crick a "pioneer in opening up the door to this field" and said Monsanto was "opening the door on a new phase, a new revolution . …