BRUSSELS, Belgium — Noelle Lenoir, the French lawyer who has chaired the European Union's Group of Advisors on the Ethical Implications of Biotechnology since 1991, has been elected chairman of its successor body, the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies.

The new group set up by the European Commission (EC), in line with a December 1997 decision, is tasked with advising the EC on all ethical questions relating to science and new technologies, either at the request of the EC or on its own initiative. The EC said on the occasion of the group's first meeting in Brussels last Thursday that modern biotechnology will be one of the areas generating most of the issues going before the panel.

This new advisory body, which will meet once a month in Brussels, is multidisciplinary. Its 12 members (several from among the nine members of the group it replaces) have backgrounds in law, biology, genetics, medicine, public health, theology, philosophy, sociology and informatics. And although they are appointed by the EC for a period of three years, they remain completely independent of the commission and political, economic and national interests. The new group's remit is much broader than its predecessor's, going beyond simply biotechnology to all ethical questions arising from science and new technologies.

Over the coming weeks, the group will set up a work program for 1998. It may take over issues that the former group foresaw on human tissue banks and on the use of genetic testing by employers.