In last week's debate over human cloning in the U.S. House of Representatives, one message came out clearly from across the political spectrum: the integrity of the biotech industry is now fair political game, and the sector can no longer count on its image as an entrepreneurial provider of medical hope and high-tech jobs to win it the benefit of the doubt.

In the short-term, the outcome of battles over federal funding of embryonic stem cell research and restrictions on therapeutic cloning will affect only a handful of companies. And, in fact, the biotech industry has reasons to believe it will prevail as the cloning debate moves into the U.S. Senate. But the loss of political goodwill over the longer term is harder to calculate.