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Child robot creating clones genetic engineering

Group says the WHO is trying to normalise human genetic engineering; Prof Stuart Newman condemns uncontrolled experiments on prospective people

Stop Designer Babies[1] has criticised two World Health Organization (WHO) reports on "global governance" of human genome editing.

The WHO says that the reports "provide advice and recommendations on appropriate institutional, national, regional and global governance mechanisms for human genome editing".

But according to Stop Designer Babies, the reports expend many words to say nothing concrete and fail to recommend the obvious solution to the risks of the unregulated creation of GM designer babies – exemplified by the actions of the Chinese scientist He Jiankui in 2018. That obvious solution, according to Stop Designer Babies, is a ban on human germline (heritable) genetic engineering.

Dr David King[2], a member of Stop Designer Babies, said of the reports: “This is an abdication of the WHO’s responsibility. It is obvious that the only practical solution to the risks of rogue scientists and profit-minded IVF clinics starting a new free market eugenics is a comprehensive global ban treaty. That is why over 70 countries have already effectively banned it. The mealy-mouthed call for ‘governance’ is a technocratic strategy, which we have already seen from other scientific establishment bodies, for eventual normalisation of human genetic engineering.”

Stuart A. Newman, PhD, Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy at New York Medical College, commented, "Leaving the door open to GM humans, as WHO does in these reports, flies in the face of science that demonstrates that embryos cannot be reliably engineered. Every attempt to do so, now or in the future, will be an uncontrolled experiment on a prospective person. There are justified uses of genetic modification to cure diseases in desperately ill patients. CRISPR-modified babies, however, is an unethical technology."

GMWatch takes no issue with somatic gene therapy, which is a contained use medical treatment for a given disease. Somatic gene therapy targets only the patient and does not affect future generations. But we stand with Stop Designer Babies and Professor Newman in opposing human germline genetic engineering. This would undoubtedly be used, despite the inevitable risks of real and enduring harm, to "enhance" desired characteristics, such as height, athletic performance, and intelligence, marking the start of a new age of eugenics.

Notes

1. Stop Designer Babies is a new UK-based grassroots campaigning group dedicated to a global ban on human genetic engineering. We are a pro-choice group. More information see this.
2. Dr David King is a former molecular biologist and long-term campaigner against human genetic engineering.