This came from David King of hgalert.org. At the bottom is my letter emailed to this council (with some additional points not mentioned in David’s message). YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE AN EXPERT TO SUBMIT A COMMENT! Please do so TODAY.
For all you peace activists out there - think about the military implications of legalizing the creation of designer humans. All they'll need is legalizing human cloning next (but they don't necessarily need it to be legal to be doing it anyway, cloning is possibly simpler than figuring out the genetic basis of complex traits, which will flourish if legalized).
Although the official deadline for the written response is June 30, they say in the consultation document that if you need more time you should write to them. The deadline for the survey is July 14.
But take care: the survey and consultation document have been carefully crafted to bias your responses in favour of permitting gene editing of children. Amongst the basic facts missing from the survey and consultation document are:that
- that these techniques are medically unnecessary due to the existence of alternatives;
- that they pose a safety risk to the child;
- that governments around the world have banned the technique even before it was possible because of the risks of a new eugenics (often referred to as designer babies).
In written responses, please make the following very simple points.
- Genetic editing is unnecessary because existing techniques for genetic testing of foetuses and embryos can prevent the passing on of harmful genetic conditions. (Note, that although many disability rights advocates, myself among them, argue that such selection techniques are a continuation of earlier forms of eugenics, very few disability rights advocates argue that such selection should be totally banned since, at least for some extremely severe genetic conditions, especially where a child with the condition already exists in the family, it is unreasonable to restrict parents reproductive choice absolutely.)
- Despite claims of the accuracy of CRISPR-CAS9 there is a lot of evidence that it can cause of target mutations that are likely to harm the child.
- The overriding concern which should lead to these techniques being totally banned for creation of GM babies is the risk of a consumer eugenics (designer babies), some elements of which already exist. It is totally unrealistic to expect that once the techniques were allowed for prevention of genetic conditions that they would not be used for so-called enhancement. The history with drugs and surgery shows how this works. In fact, it is only in the area of 'enhancement' that genetic engineering has an 'advantage' over genetic selection techniques which cannot enhance what is already there. So, that is where the market for genetic engineering will be, if legalised.
- The history of the eugenics in the first half of the 20th century shows that existing oppressive biases around gender, race, class, ability must not be allowed to operate in the choice of which human beings get born. These oppressions still exist, which is why for example large numbers of black people use skin-lightening creams. Eugenics is fatal to any basic concepts of social equality.
- If a free-market eugenics were allowed to operate, only wealthy parents would be able to afford the techniques: thus on top of the economic and social advantages their children enjoy they might also enjoy advantages in their physical abilities. Thus, privileged elites might develop, with little interest in partnering with the genetically un-enhanced.
Please put such arguments in your own words.
Thanks very much for your help with this, I'd be grateful if you could let me know that you have responded to their consultation. ([log in to unmask]
Below is my (Maggie’s) email sent to this council, with the subject line "I absolutely oppose genetic engineering of human germline".
Dear Nuffield Council on Bioethics,
I am absolutely opposed to the genetic engineering of human germline, and believe it must be banned, globally!
There are way too many ways altering the complex genetic of the human organism will lead to unintended consequences, especially ones not immediately obvious - perhaps not for decades, or even for a generation (which means it would have spread in the population before being recognized, belatedly, affecting many lives).
Even if gene editing is 100% pinpoint accurate - which CRISPR-CAS9 is NOT, as there is a lot of evidence that it can cause off target mutations - it STILL may lead to unintended consequences, due to the limitation in our understanding of the human system. Even the mere procedure of laboratory manipulation of the germline cells or the embryo, and artificial insemination, could all potentially cause damages that aren't immediately obvious.
History of the biological and medical sciences, and of genetic engineering, is replete with examples of such surprises. History of other natural sciences similarly always reveal that nature has more surprises for us every time we thought we're so clever and have it under control. Our manipulations of nature lead to countless examples of destruction and devastation.
Whereas altering somatic cells affect only the individual, and may be acceptable if the person so chooses after being fully informed of the risks, it is absolutely not acceptable to do so to germline cells or to an embryo. Neither the parents nor the doctors have the right to impose such risks on the future generations.
To avoid having children with inherited severe genetic diseases, genetic testing of embryos and fetuses is already available.
If parents don't want to abort a fetus due to ethical reasons, then knowing the fact that (one of them) carries such a diseased gene and may pass it on to their offspring, means they have the responsibility to avoid getting pregnant to begin with. It's not their right to alter the baby's genes and let the baby (and future generations) risk unforeseen consequences. If it means they have to abort an affected fetus, or mustn't get pregnant at all, so be it - life is not perfect.
Additionally, it is a completely slippery slope from "curing genetic disease", to "enhancing human trait", to designer babies, as your own survey questions (which is designed with a strong bias in favor of the technology) show.
While severe genetic disorders are relatively rare, enhancing human traits is in fact where the primary market for genetic engineering will be, if such procedure is legalized. Not only will this hugely exacerbate inequality (as only affluent couples can afford it), it will also drastically alter the human genetic pool, reducing its diversity and resilience as a species.
And the military can go unhindered to create SUPER WARRIOR ZOMBIES.
Yes, you have full permission to publish my comments with my name.
Maggie Zhou, PhD (genetics)
citizen of USA, formerly of China