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Genetic Crossroads
November 26th, 2002

1. UNESCO report opposes “designer baby” technology

The United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will be considering two important policy statements relevant to human genetic modification in Montreal, Canada on Nov. 26-28. One statement opposes the use of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis for non-medical purposes such as selection for sex or cosmetic traits. It also affirms UNESCO’s earlier opposition to inheritable genetic modification. The second statement establishes a process for developing a “Universal Instrument on Bioethics.” The proposed bioethics instrument would address such topics as access to health care, assisted reproduction, end-of-life issues, intellectual property, human subjects research, human organ/tissue transplantation, and the use of embryonic stem cells for research.

In recent years policy on these matters has often been influenced by professional bioethicists who espouse utilitarian rather than social justice values. UNESCO has historically emphasized social justice values, and has been a progressive political force in international affairs. If it remains true to its political roots, it is in a position to play an important role on the world stage concerning the new human genetic technologies.

For copies of the UNESCO reports see http://www.unesco.org/ibc

For background and other links on UNESCO and the new human genetic technologies, see http://www.genetics-and-society.org/policies/international/unesco.html

2. International Olympics Committee bans human genetic modification

The International Olympics Committee (IOC) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have decided to add human genetic modification to their list of banned practices. Effective January 1, 2003, “Gene or cell doping is defined as the non-therapeutic use of genes, genetic elements, and/or cells that have the capacity to enhance athletic performance.” In the past, WADA has been forced to react as new drugs have been developed and used. The new ruling preemptively bans an anticipated category of unacceptable technologies. WADA president Dick Pound said, “By introducing the notion of genetic doping into the list at this time, we are taking into account the important changes occurring in doping techniques.”

See Adrian Warner, “IOC Bans Human Genetic Engineering From Sports,” Reuters (October 1, 2002) http://www.duluthsuperior.com/mld/duluthsuperior/sports/4188493.htm


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