I think this is very good. I hope the final draft can generate some publicity
since almost every item in the news that concerns genetic engineering bubbles
over with how this technology is going to "improve" life. I think it is crucial
that the public hear the other side and hear it often.
One addition that I can't articulate to my satisfaction is that germline
engineering may be frought with more danger than we may be able to understand
until generations after the damage has been done. Humans have evolved due to
natural selection, a process that is still not well understood. At this point
in history we don't even know if the outcome of simple non-genetic disease
remedies such as antibiotics will turn out to have been anything but a short
term cure. Some diseases such as TB are now coming back with a vengence. There
are no known risks to human survival that germline genetic engineering can
solve. Furthermore, these techniques are bound to be expensive which raises
up the spectre of class differences running down to the genetic level. The
societal implications of that are also anything but clear.
NEWMAN STUART wrote:
> Along with David King in the U.K., and Rich Hayes and Marcy Darnovsky at
> U.C. Berkeley, I have drafted the statement below as part of an
> international campaign against human germline genetic engineering. I am
> distributing it through this listserve to get an idea of the level of
> enthusiasm among socially engaged scientists and physicians for such an
> Although there are clearly problems with the way that attempted somatic gene
> therapies are being conducted, this statement only addresses itself to
> germline protocols, which have not yet been attempted in humans.
> Please do not circulate the statement beyond this list, since it is still in
> draft form, and we want to eventually distribute a standard version. Note
> that signatories would not have to endorse all the stated arguments equally.
> Please let me know if you could sign on to such a statement. Positive
> responders at this time will not be considered official signatories.
> Stuart Newman
> Stuart A. Newman, Ph.D.
> Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy
> Basic Science Building
> New York Medical College
> Valhalla, NY 10595
> Tel: (914) 594-4048
> Fax:(914) 594-4653
> E-mail: [log in to unmask]
> Scientists' and Physicians' Statement on Human Germline Engineering
> Genetic engineering of the human germline--the deliberate
> introduction of
> genetic changes in human embryos which are passed on to future
> generations--is being proposed as a means to eradicate disease and
> disability, and to "improve" the human species. The undersigned scientists
> and physicians find one or more of the following reasons sufficiently
> compelling to cause us to strongly oppose attempts at human germline
> First, there is no medical need for human germline engineering.
> often presented as a means to prevent gene-related disease, germline
> engineering for this purpose is rendered pointless by the existence of
> options such as adoption and artificial insemination, and prenatal and
> pre-implantation genetic testing. Germline engineering would be the
> technology of choice only if the goal was so-called genetic enhancement.
> Second, attempts to use germline engineering to prevent disease and
> disability could engender and encourage efforts to genetically "enhance" the
> performance, appearance and other traits of our offspring. The development,
> application, and control of powerful eugenic technologies would pose serious
> societal risks, even in the absence of coercive measures. We are acutely
> aware of the involvement of scientists and doctors in past abuses
> implemented in the name of eugenics.
> Third, the risks inevitably entailed in germline engineering would
> make it
> medically irresponsible given the availability of simpler and safer
> alternative procedures. Manipulating human genetic material at early stages
> of development could induce irreversible harm to that individual, its
> offspring, and subsequent generations. The unpredictability of embryo gene
> manipulation would make it an unacceptably high-risk technique, no matter
> how reliably it may be performed in non-human species.
> Fourth, while prevention of disease is a laudable goal, we are
> that the development of technologies aimed at the elimination of
> gene-related disabilities may be driven partly by prejudice against disabled
> people and the lack of adequate societal support for disabled children and
> their families.
> Fifth, by genetically engineering our children we would turn them
> into artifacts produced according to our design specifications. The
> potential impact of this on human relationships, on concepts of human
> rights, and on the experience of human identity is ominous.
> Finally, we believe that human germline engineering would bring
> science and
> medicine into disrepute and harm promising fields of medical research.
> Support for therapeutically unjustifiable and ethically misguided
> applications of hard-won biological knowledge is not compatible with the
> responsible pursuit of science and the practice of medicine.
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