Officials of the University of Wisconsin Biotechnology Center(UWBC) believe that educating Wisconsin residents aboutbiotechnology should be a full-time job.

However, a state government hiring freeze prevents theposition from being filled, said Mary Greenheck, UWBC'sadministrative officer. The center has chosen a candidate, butshe declined to disclose the person's background.

The center plans to work with the university's extensionservice to develop a course that would give teachers a grasp ofbiotechnology terms. Instructors returning to the classroomcould offer valuable insight into what the public needs to learnabout biotech.

A full-time position is needed to reduce the public's fears andconcerns about biotechnology, Greenheck said. Althoughaspects of the technology have been used for centuries, manypeople don't view it as an extension of a natural process.

In Wisconsin, which bills itself as "America's Dairyland," muchof that public fear centers around bovine somatotropin (BST), anaturally occurring protein produced by recombinanttechnology that is injected into dairy cows to increase theirmilk output. For farmers, BST raises the economic threat ofeven greater production in an often-glutted milk market.

"The BST issue makes a larger percentage of the public awareof biotechnology," said Ken Smith, UWBC's outreach specialistand managing editor of the Wisconsin BioBusiness newsletter."Certain states have certain commodities that are sacred. InWisconsin, it's the dairy industry."

The Wisconsin Legislature enacted a moratorium on the sale ofBST in the state until June 1. In the same bill, it also provided$500,000 to fund seven positions for public education aboutbiotechnology, Smith said.

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