Scientific secretariat for the first Austrian Parliamentary Enquiry Commission on the issue of gene technology
In 1991, after tough negotiations, the Austrian Parliament decided to activate the Parliamentary Enquiry Commission, a tool that had been installed following a German example in 1988 already. The issue to be debated was the then contested gene technology. The aim was to prepare the basis for a new law in a series of in-depth deliberations between parliamentarians and experts over three months.
The Technology Assessment Unit (TAU), a forerunner of the ITA, was commissioned with observing the debates in Parliament, juxtaposing the diverse arguments raised by parliamentarians and experts and summarizing them as objectively as possible to prepare them for a debate. In addition, TAU provided an expertise over the subject of the debate in all aspects addressed in its own responsibility on the basis of the reports on various sub-fields written by a number of experts commissioned by the Parliamentary parties, respectively. This expertise, from a perspective as neutral as possible, should facilitate creating the basis for a new law. Both documents were submitted to the Commission in time and debated in the last meeting.
However in parallel, the Federal Ministry of Health had already been busy preparing a law on gene technology. A rather advanced outcast was presented shortly before Parliament came up with the final report by the Enquiry Commission, which created considerable unease between Parliament and Administration.