of an agency of technology assessment is based on solid experience with the
OTA of the past, a form which can be improved to better serve the needs of
scientific and technological assessment.157 And it would better integrate the
current morass of regulatory initiatives that govern the uncertain risks of
CRISPR only glancingly, leaving large regulatory holes in the risk analysis.
Congress can use the Congressional Research Service and the General
Accounting Office in the absence of the now defunct OTA, but neither
provides the staff and the long-term attention span needed for difficult
technological assessments. The need for an independent agency review and
ongoing investigation of a technology like CRISPR is justified by the wide
range of possible misfires of the technology may create. Sclove notes that
all realms of human experience might be affected, and “…[a] well-crafted
TA capability can assist citizens and decision-makers in understanding these
kinds of broad and deep implications of technological innovation –
implications that might otherwise escape attention until well after they, too,
have become entrenched.”158
An improved model of the Office of Technology Assessment offers a
coherent model for an agency with broad experience with a range of
technologies and with public engagement, one better equipped to
counterbalance the biases of those who are fans of the technology as a
research tool. A central purpose of a revived OTA would be to justify and
propose moratoria on new research developments that may pose risks that
need to be studied.159 Since CRISPR may just be the first in a series of
technologies with huge benefits and uncertain risks; a federal capacity to
assess such new technologies is sorely needed under any political
administration, regardless of political affiliation.
157. John Dunlop, The Limits of Legal Compulsion, 27 LABOR L. J. 67 (1976)
(representing a classic article on a critical view of creating new regulatory agencies in response
to perceived national problems).
158. SCLOVE, supra note 153, at 3.
159. See generally Matthew T. Wansley, Regulation of Emerging Risks, 69 VAND. L.
REV. 401 (2016) (describing a model of regulation where agencies have the power to impose
moratoria on emerging technologies).