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World Conference on Racism Addresses Human Genetic Engineering

Genetic Crossroads
October 3rd, 2001

A Nobel laureate writer and a health law expert spoke at the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) in September about the potential of human genetic engineering to create a "future racism."

At a panel convened by UNESCO, South African writer and Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer asked whether genetic engineering was "the new face of racism." She speculated about a future in which the "haves," who could afford access to genetic engineering, might live longer and healthier lives, while the "have nots"—"principally dark-skinned people"—would not be able to afford such access.

Boston University Health Law Professor George Annas said that human genetic engineering has the potential to divide humanity into "super- humans" and slaves, and that this "gene-ism" could "eclipse racism as the most destructive force on the planet." Annas asked the WCAR to consider a treaty to ban "all species-altering techniques," and spoke of the need to protect "genetic privacy."

UNESCO's Jerome Binde said WCAR needed to address genetic engineering to prevent the creation of "a two-track humanity" of super-humans and "sub-humans" who were either excluded or genetically manipulated so that they could be controlled by the "super-humans."

Online Health Service, <www.health-e.org.za/view.php3?id=20010901>.


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