Frankenfood: Genetically Modified Foods
The term genetically modified food (also known as biotech or genetically engineered food) refers to crop plants that have bee
modified in the
traits, such as resistance to herbicides or improved nutritional content. Experts say this
science, like any other, has no guarantees.
Introducing allergens and toxins to food
Accidental contamination between genetically modified and non
netically modified foods
changing the nutrient content of a crop
Creation of "super" weeds and other environmental risks
Increased pest and disease resistance
Increased food supply
Regulation Too Soft?
So you might ask, what's the big deal? The U.S. government wouldn't allow a product on the market without strict testing and
It seems genetically modified foods are a bit of a scientific
, a creature that U.S
agencies aren't quite sure how to efficiently manage.
Regulation for genetically modified foods falls under three jurisdictions: The FDA, EPA, and USDA. But industry experts say
the green light on market approval is left mostly to the companie
s creating the technology. Monsanto Co. dominates the industry,
accounting for a 90% share of genetically modified crops worldwide. Dow Chemical Company and Syngenta AG, among others,
control the rest.
Despite differing opinions on genetically modified foo
d safety, most experts agree on one point: The regulation system is flawed.
"Clearly I think the regulation system in the U.S. could be greatly improved," says Gregory Jaffe, director of the Biotechnol
Project at the Center for Science in the Public Int
erest, a nonprofit, public advocacy group that supports the use of this
biotechnology. But he says a CSPI study released in January 2003 showed that biotech companies don't always voluntarily
comply with federal requirements.
"They did not do state
art tests when they needed to do those. In some instances they had errors in their submissions, and
the agency did not do a thorough review of those. Our view is that there should be a mandatory, premarket approval process by
the FDA before biotech foods g
o on the market; that the public is entitled to have the FDA
that the food is safe and not
relying on [companies such as] Monsanto telling us the food is safe."
The FDA test for genetically modified food safety is based on a policy that states genetically modified foods are
"No serious scientist in the world would stand behind that unless they're on the payroll of the biotec
h companies. If they're
, why do these companies have a patent on them?" says Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic
Consumers Association and author of the book,
Genetically Engineered Food: A Self
Defense Guide for Consume
summarize it in three words: Genetically modified foods are unpredictable, they are untested, and they are unlabeled."
Monsanto states that genetically modified foods are "more thoroughly tested than any other food on the grocer's shelves to d
and "there have been no
effects documented from food produced from biotech crops." Among industry supporters
of this technology are heavy hitters such as the American Medical Association.
Engineering Food for All
Nina V. Fedoroff: Times New Roman
prices are at record highs and the ranks of the hungry are
once again. A warming climate is beginning to
crop yields worldwide. The United Nations predicts that there will be one to three billion more
people to feed by
Yet even as the Obama administration says it wants to
by eliminating unnecessary regulations, the Environmental
Protection Agency wants to require even more data on genetically modified crops, which have been impr
oved using technology
with great promise and a track record of safety. The process for approving these crops has become so costly and
that it is
choking off innovation
Civilization depends on our
ability to produce food effici
ently, which has accelerated thanks to science and technology.
The use of chemicals for fertilization and for pest and disease control, the induction of beneficial mutations in plants with
chemicals or radiation to improve yields, and the mechanization of
agriculture have all increased the amount of food that can be
grown on each acre of land by as much as 10 times in the last 100 years.
These extraordinary increases must be doubled by 2050 if we are to continue to feed an expanding population. As people a
the world become more
, they are demanding diets richer in animal protein, which will require ever more
crop yields to sustain.
New molecular methods that add or modify genes can protect plants from diseases and pests and improve
crops in ways that are
both more environmentally
and beyond the capability of older methods. This is because the gene modifications are crafted
based on knowledge of what genes do, in contrast to the shotgun approach of traditional breeding or using
chemicals or radiation
to induce mutations. The results have been spectacular.
For example, genetically modified crops containing an extra gene that
resistance to certain insects require much less
pesticide. This is good for the environment because
toxic pesticides decrease the supply of food for birds and run off the
land to poison rivers, lakes and oceans.
The rapid adoption of genetically modified herbicide
tolerant soybeans has made it easier for farmers to park their plows
weed control. No
till farming is more sustainable and environmentally
because it decreases soil
agriculture’s carbon footprint, meaning less pollution.
In 2010, crops modified by molecular methods were grown in 29 countries o
n more than 360 million acres. Of the 15.4 million
farmers growing these crops, 90 percent are poor, with small operations. The reason farmers turn to genetically modified crop
increase and costs decrease.
Myths about the
effects of genetically modified foods on health and the environment abound, but they have not held up
. And, although many concerns have been expressed about the potential for unexpected consequences, the
unexpected effects that have be
en observed so far have been
. Contamination by fungal toxins, for example, is as much as 90
percent lower in insect
resistant genetically modified corn than in nonmodified corn. This is because the fungi that make the
toxins follow insects
that live i
he plants. No insect holes, no fungi, no toxins.
Yet today we have only a handful of genetically modified crops, primarily soybeans, corn, canola and cotton. All are commodit
crops mainly used for feed or fiber and all were developed by big biotec
h companies. Only big companies can muster the money
the government’s three oversight agencies: the E.P.A., the Department of Agriculture
Food and Drug Administration
Decades ago, when molecular approaches to
plant improvement were relatively new, there was some rationale for a cautious
But now the evidence is in.
These crop modification methods are not dangerous. The European Union has spent more than
$425 million studying the safety of genetically
modified crops over the past 25 years
. Its recent, lengthy report on the matter
can be summarized in one sentence:
Crop modification by molecular methods is no more dangerous than crop modification
by other methods
. Serious scientific bodies that have ana
lyzed the issue, including the National Academy of Sciences and the
British Royal Society, have come to the same conclusion.
It is time to relieve the regulatory
slowing down the development of genetically modified crops. The three United States
latory agencies need to develop a single set of requirements and focus solely on the hazards
posed by new traits.
And above all, the government needs to stop regulating genetic modifications for which there is no scientifically credible
e of harm.
Nina V. Fedoroff, who was the science and technology adviser to the secretary of state from 2007 to 2010, is a professor of
biology at Pennsylvania State University.
Say no to genetically engineered salmon
Rick Moonen: CNN
Las Vegas, Nevada
I am and always will be completely against any food that has been altered genetically for human
consumption. And never, in the 30
plus years I have been a chef, has one customer requested a
This is why I was alarmed to learn early
this month that the Food and Drug Administration announced with "reasonable
certainty" that a new genetically modified Atlantic salmon posed "no harm" to humans who might soon have the opportunity to
buy it and eat it as though it were a fish from nature.
The announcement brings this "Frankenfish" one step closer to your table.
But make no mistake. The creation of this fish is just another tactic for big industry to make bigger, faster profits with no
consideration for the impact it will have on our person
al health and the health of our environment and ecosystem.
The fish, an Atlantic salmon, contains growth hormone from a Pacific species, the Chinook salmon, as well as genetic material
from another species, the ocean pout, that causes the "transgenic" sal
mon to grow at twice the normal speed.
The claim made by its developer, AquaBounty Technologies, is that this altered fish is as safe to consume as farmed Atlantic
salmon. This argument doesn't convince much, since farmed salmon aren't really that safe to
They have been found to have
higher concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls than wild salmon,
which gets into their bodies from the concentrated fish
meal used to create their feed. AquaBounty also plans to sell the eggs of its fish to fish farms.
As we have learned over time, farmed Atlantic salmon is horrible for the environment. The fish are grown in overcrowded, open
net pens in the ocean, placing an unnatural stress on the surrounding ocean environment as well as on the fish themselves.
ose conditions it becomes necessary to use antibiotics on an already unstable fish in order to control bacterial
infections and other diseases
and to protect the investment of carnivorous fish farming.
The byproducts of all this
wonderful stew of f
eces, unconsumed fish food and dead fish called, sweetly, "effluent"
create a suffocating blanket that
spreads across the ocean floor, resulting in a massive dead zone surrounding the farming area.
It kills clams, oysters, eel
where young fis
h feed and grow
If the point of genetically engineering fish is to produce more salmon faster, introducing these fish into the fish farm scen
only magnify an already big problem. And it will create a larger demand for smaller species
of wild fish to be used for fish feed
necessary to support these constantly feeding frankenfish. Wild species don't stand a chance.
It has also been proven that
these farm fish escape their nets that keep them inside.
These fish have a
regard for season or feeding cycle.
What could happen?
stimates of farmed salmon escapes in British Columbia from 1991 to 2001 total at least 400,000 fish. The wild salmon
population is already severely endangered. If escaped, the farmed
swimming aggressive gluttons
for the food that is essential for wild stocks to survive, further threatening this already endangered species (nearly all At
salmon sold now comes from fish farms).
What process has the FDA used to
determine whether the genetically modified fish is safe for human health and the
environment? We did not know during most of the agency's evaluation process.
FDA regulations allow genetically modified animals to be evaluated under the same rules as veter
inary pharmaceuticals. So the
information given to the agency by the applicant is confidential; in the case of this fish, the information was not posted on
FDA website until the announcement on safety was made in early September.
The FDA will hold a p
ublic meeting on February 21 to discuss how the fish should be labeled. I don't trust this fish. It is an
overweight fish being introduced to an already obese society. Protecting a greedy company's "confidential information" should
not be acceptable when y
ou are introducing the first genetically modified animal for human consumption into the marketplace.
And I'm terrified to consider that rules are being considered that would allow this fish to be created and then distributed w
any kind of mandatory l
abel stating that it is a genetically modified product.
In restaurants, chefs are in a position to assure their guests that the food being served to them is not only delicious but a
wholesome and safe to consume. How do we do this when there is no requi
red labeling indicating that a fish has been
manufactured by science and not a product of nature?
If these genetically engineered salmon are approved, it will set a worldwide
. It will open the door to other kinds of
genetically modified animal foo
ds that may pose health or environmental dangers, and the true extent of these might not reveal
themselves for years to come.
At the very least, given the amount of data that we have seen to date, the creation of these frankenfish for mass consumption
ld not be approved. It's simply against nature and is a huge step back in the worldwide movement to eat local, organic and
enjoy your dinner.
Are GMO’s Safe?
Paul Tullis Huffington Post
innovation to come to many crops in the last generation
and one of the most widespread
is genetic engineering. The cultivation of
corn and soy today is so scientifically and technologically advanced it would be unrecognizable to a farmer just 40 year
Eighty percent of the 86 million acres of corn planted in the United States today
as well as 92 percent of the soy, and a good deal of the squash,
tomatoes, potatoes, canola and a host of other crops
comes from genetically engineered, or "GE,
" seed. Yet despite these crops'
, 60 percent of Americans don't even know they're eating GE foods.
Even before GE crops were introduced in 1996, debate raged among scientists, farmers, environmentalists and public health off
demics regarding their safety, with pro and con sides finding little common ground.
"There's now overwhelming evidence that GE foods are unsafe and should never have been introduced,"
says Jeffrey M. Smith, author of
published books purporting to sho
w just that.
Foods derived from biotechnology have been eaten by billions of people without a single documented health problem,"
Bomer Lauritsen, Executive Vice President for Food and Agriculture of BIO, the lobbying arm of the biotech in
It's difficult to find a scientist knowledgeable on the topic who doesn't have financial ties to the biotechnology industry,
and it's equally
challenging to find an opponent of GE who seems capable of recognizing its potential
and doesn't object to
the technology per se. So what's
GE seed contains a gene from a different organism in its DNA, giving the plant it produces desirable traits. Although the bio
has long promised nutrient
rich and drought
rops to alleviate hunger and malnutrition among the world's poor (any day now,
we're told), the overwhelming majority of GE seed today is modified to tolerate certain pesticides and herbicides
which in many cases are made
by the same companies selling t
he patented seeds. For instance, St. Louis
based agrochemical giant Monsanto makes Roundup Ready® soy,
which is resistant to a pesticide Monsanto sells, enabling farmers to virtually drown their crop in the synthetic chemical. T
he result is that
s the most popular agricultural pesticide in the Unites States.
Claims by manufacturers that this makes farming more economical and better for the environment by reducing both the amount of
work that goes
into the crop, and how much farmers have to spray,
are supported by
bodies of science, though some studies place doubt on those
GMO claim is contradicted by the National Academy of Sciences in the Unites States as well as the UK's leading academy of
medical science, the Roya
l Society of Medicine.
Lauritsen's claim, however, is
unsupportable because the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Proving safety
would require a
massive, longitudinal epidemiological study with a control group that has never been exposed to GE foods, which may be
given that the GE toothpaste is out of the tube: GE seeds migrate into fields of non
GE varieties, so
they are virtually impossible to avoid.
makes the possible hazards to human health and the environment from GE foods disturbing to some.
Alteration of the DNA of GE foods carries
the potential to turn them toxic or cause allergic reactions, and their
use may actually have led to an increase of spraying of har
chemicals into the environment.
European nations have even banned GE foods in response to public outcry.
Who is responsible for ensuring that agricultural products are safe for human consum
ption and the environment?
Should the government commission independent scientific analysis to ensure safety of GE crops to human health and the environ
companies be trusted to make their products safe, suffering civil damages if they're later
proven otherwise? Or should consumers be left to fend
GE crops in the United States are approved for use by either the Agriculture Department, the EPA, or the FDA, each with its o
Freese, science policy analyst at the Cen
ter for Food Safety, says the government needs "to improve the regulatory system, which is a rubber
stamp designed to enhance public confidence without ensuring safety."
But Gregory Jaffe, a lawyer who is director of biotechnology projects at the Center f
or Science in the Public Interest, says "that's misleading. The
FDA has a voluntary consultation process, which I think is inadequate." (We've seen what self
regulation has done to financial markets and the
waters of the Gulf of Mexico.) The USDA, Jaffe sa
ys, does "a fairly good job of ensuring it doesn't have an impact on agricultural interests, but
the process to [minimize] environmental impact is inadequate." Jaffe rates the EPA tops at ensuring against food safety risk
of the crops it
oversees, which in
cludes all that corn.
For the small percentage of the population that's extremely food
sensitive or has severe allergies, it's probably best to avoid
GE foods when possible
. That means buying organic anything containing corn, soy, or canola
(check your labels
you'll be surprised to find
how many food products this includes).
If you care about family farms, personal liberties, or the environment, you should also buy organic
organic certification means no GE
wherever practical. They a
lso support crop diversity and petrochemical
free farming by planting varieties farmers have been using for centuries
(and not patented by giant corporations), and by keeping chemical formulations and harmful nitrogen
based fertilizers out of the groundwat
No matter who you are, you should support legitimate scientific review of new biotech crops coming to market; all three regul
ating agencies have
periods of public comment before they OK a new GE crop, and Congress has the autho
rity to change the way GMOs are OK'd by the
Designer Babies: A Right to Choose
: Freelance science journalist
When a Los Angeles fertility clinic offered last month to
let parents choose their kids’ hair and eye color
followed. On March 2, the clinic
shut the program down
and that, says author James Hughes, is a shame.
According to Hughes, using reproductive technologies
in this case, pre
implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), in which
embryos before implanting them
for cosmetic purposes is just an old
fashioned parental impulse
If nobody gets hurt and everybody has access, says Hughes, then genetic modification is perfectly fine, and restricting it is
an assault on reproductive
"It’s in the same category as abortion. If you think women have the right to control their
own bodies, then they should be able to make this choice," he said. "There should be no law restricting the kind of kids peop
have, unless there’s gross e
vidence that they’re going to harm that kid, or harm society."
Hughes’ views are hardly universal. "
I’m totally against this," said William Kearns, the medical geneticist who developed
the techniques used by the Fertility Institutes for cosmetic purposes,
in a newspaper interview. In the same article, Mark
Hughes, one of the inventors of pre
implantation genetic diagnosis, called its non
therapeutic use "ridiculous and
Wired.com talked to James Hughes and to about genetic selection.
What do you think about using reproductive technologies to pick cosmetic traits?
It’s inevitable, in the broad context of freedom and choice. And the term "designer babies" is an insult to parents,
because it basically says parents don’t
have their kids’ best interests at heart.
The only people who are consisten
t about this are the Catholics.
They say that you have to accept whatever pops out of your
If I’ve got a dozen embryos I could implant, and the ones I want t
o implant are the green
eyed ones, or the blond
those choices are
a violation of our procreative autonomy
I want to see a society in which parents can say, I want my kids t
o have the best possible options in life. That might include
getting rid of obesity genes. Every child should be a loved child, but there is no virtue in accident.
But one could argue that obesity is a health problem, not a cosmetic issue.
So parents are only allowed to have preferences about health conditions? What if we discovered that eating fish oil
while pregnant increases intelligence, which it does? We’re not going to say that you can’t make certain dietary choices. In
And would we say it was morally inappropriate for parents to stand on their head during
if it made their children
blond? I doubt it. The only reason this is different is because it involves embryo selection.
this going to produce a super
race of children born to people wealthy enough to afford artificial
Insofar as the choices are eye color and hair color, that’s not going to
inequalities in society. It’s a minor way in
er wealth allows more reproductive choice, but it shouldn’t be a reason to override reproductive freedom.
If PGD had the ability to double the IQs of children
which it doesn’t
then that would be the sort of inequality that warranted
a social policy aga
inst it. I’m worried about that situation, not hair and eye color.
Some ethicists say that non
therapeutic reproductive technologies shouldn’t be used until the industry is better
Fertility clinics and reproductive medicine
need a complete
of their regulatory structures. Many of the
procedures are not being monitored for safety and efficacy. But those are the only two grounds on which to base a legitimate
Where do you draw the line? W
hat if I want disabled children?
We’ve been debating that for five or six years, ever since a deaf lesbian couple in Chicago wanted to use PGD to choose
among the embryos they’d fertilized for one that inherited a form of deafness.
They said that
deafness is a perfectly
condition, and that living in the hearing world is like living in the white world as a
I argue in
that I wouldn’t want to see a law saying you can’t do this, but I’d want to see strong moral sanc
The reproductive autonomy of parents should be protected at a high level
and that even includes decisions that impose a
degree of harm on children.
“Designer Babies” Ethical?
For years, reproductive specialists have been helping people become parents, even enabling them to
choose the sex of their baby.
One fertility doctor is taking things a step further, offering what some are calling "designer babies," as
If you could design your baby's features, would you? According to L.A.'s Fertility Institute, prospective parents can select
color, hair color and more.
The technology is called pre
implantation genetic diagnos
is or PGD. It was created to screen for
disease, then used for gender selection. Now this clinic plans to allow parents to select physical traits.
"I would predict that by next year, we will have determined sex with 100 percent certainty on a baby, and we
determined eye color with about an 80 percent accuracy rate," said fertility specialist Dr. Jeff Steinberg, di
rector of Fertility
Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg is a pion
eer in in
"I think it's very important that we not
bury our head in the
sand and pretend these advances are not happening," Dr. Steinberg said.
Kirsten and Matt Landon used his clinic to select the sex of their daughter. Choosing other genetic traits intrigues them.
have considered trait select
ion as an option, but not necessarily have gone with it," Matt Landon said.
A recent U.S. survey suggests most people support the notion of building a better baby when it comes to eliminating
But Dr. Steinberg says using technology for c
osmetic reasons shouldn't scare people away.
"Of course, once I've got this science, am I not to provide this to my patients? I'm a physician. I want to provide everythin
science gives me to my patients," Dr. Steinberg said.
"But is that a good thing?"
asked Dr. Arthur Caplan, Ph.D, director of the Center for
Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania.
"Let me quote Dr. Steinberg. He just said he predicts we will have determined sex with 100 percent accuracy and e
ye color with
80 percent accuracy in the next year. Does that give you pause at all?" Rodriguez asked.
"It does. I think he's wrong. I don't think we're going to get to eye color and hair color and freckles for a couple more yea
he's right in princ
iple. We're headed that way
. It is going to be possible to pick traits, not because of diseases or avoiding
dysfunction, but because somebody has a taste for a particular child or a preference for a particular child
," Dr. Caplan
"He says that if it
is available, why not offer it to his patients? He says he has the obligation as a doctor to do so. Do you agree
with that?" Rodriguez asked.
"I disagree completely. There are really three things to think about. One is, when you move away from diseases, w
ho's to say
what's the better trait? Is it better to be red
headed than it is to be brown
haired? Is it better to have freckles or not? Those sorts of
things are subjective and in some ways driven by our culture," Caplan said.
Secondly, you're going to h
ave the rich using these technologies, and that's going to advantage them further. It's not
going to be something the poor get to do
. Lastly, you've got a problem here, why are doctors in this business at all? He said
(Dr. Jeff Steinberg), 'I have to serve
my patients,' but is this just a cash business where you'd say, you know, 'I want a child with
short arms. I want a kid with athletic ability.' Okay. Well, we'll do that. Is everything and anything for sale at the fertil
Dr. Caplan asked.
case of Nadya Suleman, who had octuplets, has raised so many debates like this. The doctor who implanted six embryos is
being criticized. A lot of people say there should be a law prohibitin
g that, Rodriguez pointed out.
"Do you think there should be
s prohibiting this?" she asked.
"Absolutely. And the time to start this discussion is right now. For example, I don't think you should get any of these trait
offered to you without some counseling so you can think about, is that important to me? Is this
really going to make that
difference?" Caplan said.
This can lead to false expectations on children, he explained. The parents may pick a child to be smart,
and he or she doesn't succeed, then they become upset because they invested money and didn't
get what they want.
"We need more oversight of this industry, and I think this will turn out to be one of the biggest issues in the next 10, 15 y
extent to which we design our babies and who's going to be able to call the shots, if you will, on
whether the technology gets used
to do it," Caplan said.
Designer Babies Debate:
“Alpha children wear gray. They work much harder than we do, because they're so frightfully
clever. I'm awfully
glad I'm a Beta, because I don't work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas.
Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta
children. And Epsilons
are still worse. They're too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which
is a beastly color. I'm so glad I'm a Beta.
When Aldous Huxley coined this quote in 1932 in his novel 'Brave New World', he had no idea how intense the
debate could become less than a century after. His book was a satirical look into a
where people were segregated on the basis of genetic modifications that they were subjected to as embryos. The
end result was a seriously disillu
sioned world where these modifications brought
he dark ages.
The designer babies debate today is something that the public eye has been shielded from, and for good measure.
Companies like Google and Amazon have banned advertisements of gene modific
ations in many
, since this is an issue that really splits opinion. It is in the confines of scientific labs and multinational
companies conference halls that this debate is slowly rising and threatening to boil over.
What are Designer Babies
Before we get into designer babies ethical issues, it is crucial to understand what this truly means. Picture a world
where parents of a yet unborn child can modify his/her genes, and thus determine his/her physical appearance,
cleverness and resistance to
disease. It sounds like stuff that science fiction movies are made of, but we are fast
approaching a day when this method will be guaranteed to work. What happens to the world after that, remains to
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a
designer baby is 'A baby whose genetic makeup has been artificially
selected by genetic engineering combined with IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) to ensure the presence or absence of
particular genes or characteristics.' The process involves fertilizing the
egg by the sperm in a test tube outside the
mothers womb, and altering the genes. Admittedly, the purpose is noble (to
get rid of
genetic disorders and
diseases), but where will the human race really draw the line? Who is to stop
families (for this is
procedure) from using these methods to change their child's eye color, or to make him a professional football
player, or to make her slender and gorgeous?
The designer babies debate is more about how we are
learning to sidestep nature, and ho
w this could crumble society as we know it today.
The process of selecting the traits and characteristics of children is also known as Pre
Diagnosis (PGD), and here the embryo is checked for genetic deficiencies before it is return
ed to the mothers
alterations can be made along the way, and the
that this will have is open for
The designer babies ethical considerations come into play because of the effects thi
s procedure will have.
that can afford these alterations will be few, and this will only increase the
between the various
social classes. This will ultimately result in a segregation between the superior 'modified' humans, and
the pure but inf
Sooner or later, this situation will turn ugly. Moreover, the diversity of the gene pool
and human genetics will be affected, and this may even lead to a major percentage of the human race being wiped
out completely by some major disease. All t
his is without even taking into consideration the effect this procedure
will have on the child.
People involved in designer babies debates sometimes forget to think about the effects these alterations will have
on the children. After all, if you are twea
king one gene here, then another gene somewhere else must be shifting
to balance the event. This could ultimately lead to a situation where each child is programmed to do certain tasks,
and is unable to do anything else, much in the way Mr. Huxley
The human race must stop trying to play God by messing with genetics and embryo alterations, and this is exactly
what the designer babies debates are all
about. Though it is too late to eliminate
these procedures entirely, we can
still do our best to control the situation. The purpose may be noble (to
get rid of
genetic diseases), but in the
wrong hands this knowledge could be devastating. And human beings do have a tendency to allow such knowledg
to ultimately fall into the wrong hands.
Pros of Designer Babies
Genetic screening can reduce the baby's chances of being born with several serious diseases
syndrome, spinal muscular atrophy, cystic fibrosis, familial hypercholesterolemia, ra
re blood disorders such as
Blackfan anemia, etc. Adam Nash was the world's first known designer baby, born by the revolutionary
'preimplantation process' in the year 2000. Scientists genetically selected his embryo, so that he would possess the
ht cells to save his dying sister's life. His sister suffered from Fanconi's anemia (blood disorder), and mostly the
chances of Adam getting that disorder was also very high. An embryo was chosen, which did not have Fanconi's
anemia. Adam became a donor to
his sister, which doubled her chances of survival. Same was the case with
Charlie Whitaker, who suffered from Diamond
Blackfan Anemia. His parents wanted to have a designer baby to
save Charlie's life. Since they were denied the right in UK, they went to
US, to have their baby. In 2003, Charlie's
baby brother was born and the stem cells from his umbilical cord would be used to treat Charlie.
Families with inherited medical conditions
like diabetes, obesity, hypertension, etc. or diseases like
disease, thalassemia, cancer, arthritis, hypothyroidism, alzheimer's disease, etc.
may want to go in
for designer babies to prevent the next generation from inheriting genes with these diseases
bearing genes can be screened for and only those wit
hout the disease can be implanted into the uterus. With the
help of this new technology, parents can be assured their children won't have to struggle with the same illness they
or their family members are going through.
Cons of Designer Babies
tion of genetic engineering for cosmetic reasons, for genetic enhancements has spearheaded a lot of
controversies. People have begun asking the question, "Is it ethical to create designer babies with enhanced
physical ability and appearance?"
out that the level of biodiversity in the human race will
drop, which can result in long
Eugenics is defined as "the study of or belief in the possibility of improving the qualities of the human species or a
human population, by such mean
s as discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to
have inheritable undesirable traits." Adolf Hitler was on a quest to create a race of Aryan Blond, blue
eyed and tall
people. Creating designer babies is believed to be on the
same lines. The question arises, which skin color and
physical features are to be chosen. The arrival of designer babies will affect biodiversity.
decided by parents, eliminates the say of the child in his or her life.
Parents passionate a
bout sports, would
have the athletic ability engineered into the child, however, the child may not want the same. This reduces the
child's freedom to choose.
Genetic engineering, if accepted, will have a negative impact on the society.
It will result in
unreasonable fear or hatred towards foreigners or anyone who appears different.
People with genetic
defects will be socially rejected. They will be called 'gene poor' and will be separated from the society too. Today,
people who have genetic de
fects are already treated differently and cast out from society in several parts across
the world. Designer babies concept, will lead to discrimination on the basis of certain qualities or traits. Kids of rich
families will receive genetic enhancement, lea
ding to genetic aristocracy. This gives them an unfair advantage over
the other children. People unable to afford genetic engineering will be looked down upon, thereby, creating a
greater gap in society.
Moreover, most parts of the world are still male dom
inated, and sex or gender
determination of the baby, can lead to gender discrimination across the globe.
Then again, using the preimplantation process to screen embryos for any genetic disease and eliminate it is
understandable, however, how does one exp
lain deliberate crippling of children.
Is it ethical to allow parents to
choose disabilities for their children
? A deaf lesbian couple, Sharon Duchesneau and Candy McCullough, from
the US, used this method of genetic engineering to create their deaf design
er baby. Their old deaf friend was their
sperm donor, who came from a family with five generations of deafness. However, how ethical is this? Although the
deaf lesbian couple feel that deafness is not a disability, instead a cultural identity, is deliberat
deafness for their child, the right thing to
do? Aren't they playing God?