Leading health law experts, advocates for human rights, and
others gathered at Boston University September 21-22 for "Beyond
Cloning: Protecting Humanity from Species-Altering Procedures."
Conference organizers and speakers called for a global ban on
genetic procedures that fundamentally change the nature of the
"Uncontrolled use of the new genetic technologies risks
setting us on a dehumanizing road to genetic genocide,"
said George Annas, professor and chair of Boston University's
Health Law Department, one of the conference sponsors. "We
need a comprehensive global treaty that bans the most dangerous
genetic technologies while allowing beneficial medical applications
More than 140 participants discussed the ethical, legal, and
social challenges raised by human genetic technologies; the
inadequacy of existing controls; possible provisions of a new
global treaty; and political strategies for its adoption.
The envisioned global accord would ban the creation of human
clones and the modification of inheritable genes, and provide
for regulations to ensure that other new human genetic and reproductive
technologies are used in ways that benefit rather than harm
human life and society.
Conference organizers noted that many governments, including
most recently those of France and Germany, have called on the
United Nations to initiate discussions intended to lead to a
global treaty, and that for such an effort to succeed a broad
civil society initiative, including non-governmental organizations,
Leading participants in the conference included advocates of
women's health and reproductive choice, disability rights, indigenous
peoples rights, and environmental protection.
Proponents of a global ban plan the publication of a report
outlining the need for such an initiative; further discussions
with a wide range of scientific, legal, health, human rights,
environmental and political leaders about ways to put such a
proposal on the international agenda; and an international conference
at a venue outside North America.
For a set of summary materials from the Beyond Cloning conference,
including a draft text of a proposed accord, email your postal
address to Jesse Reynolds of the Center for Genetics and Society
at Contact us.
Here are some of the key points made by conference speakers:
* Lori Andrews, Distinguished Professor of Law and Director
of the Institute of Science, Law and Technology, Chicago-Kent
College of Law, argued that bans, not moratoria, are needed
for the most dangerous genetic technologies.
* George Annas, Professor and Chair, Health Law Department,
Boston University School of Public Health and Co-founder, Global
Lawyers and Physicians, argued that "individuals, countries,
or corporations" have no rights to genetically alter the
* Patricia Baird, University Distinguished Professor, Department
of Medical Genetics, University of British Columbia and former
Chair, Canadian Royal Commission on the New Reproductive Technologies,
reviewed the public consultation process that has led Canada
to propose national legislation that would regulate the new
technologies, and ban cloning and inheritable genetic manipulation.
* Brent Blackwelder, President, Friends of the Earth, affirmed
that the genetic manipulation of the human species and of the
processes of the natural world in general should be strongly
opposed by environmentalists.
* Alexander Capron, Director, Pacific Center for Health Policy
and Ethics, University of Southern California, made a strong
case for a moratorium on the creation of clonal embryos for
* Michael Dorsey, Sierra Club National Board of Directors and
Thurgood Marshall Fellow, Dartmouth College, emphasized the
necessity for early participation by the Global South in any
* Leonard Glantz, Associate Dean and Health Law Professor,
Boston University School of Public Health, challenged participants
to articulate more clearly why they oppose species-altering
* Michael Grodin, Professor of Health Law, Boston University,
and co-founder, Global Lawyers and Physicians, demonstrated
the inadequacy of existing regulations and structures to control
species-altering genetic technologies.
* Debra Harry, Executive Director, Indigenous People's Council
on Biocolonialism, argued that indigenous peoples need to be
involved in the early stages of any proposed treaties.
* Richard Hayes, Executive Director, Center for Genetics and
Society, emphasized the urgent need to build a broad social
movement, including both professional organizations and mass-based
popular organizations, to counter the push towards a techno-eugenic
* Andrew Imparato, President, American Association of People
with Disabilities, recalled the history of eugenicist targeting
of people with disabilities, and criticized the exploitative
use of images of disabled people to motivate opposition to harmful
* Rosario Isasi, Health Law and Bioethics Fellow, Boston University
School of Public Health, and Global Lawyers and Physicians (Peru),
demonstrated a new interactive web site that displays national
and international policies on human cloning and inheritable
genetic modification. See .
* Stephen Marks, Director, Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center for
Health and Human Rights, Harvard School of Public Health, detailed
existing international treaties and proclamations that establish
grounds for constraining species altering technologies.
* Maxwell Mehlman, Professor of Law and Director, Law-Medicine
Center, Case-Western Reserve University, noted that although
a global treaty would face many obstacles, it appears to be
an appropriate solution to the dangers posed by the new technologies.
* Stuart Newman, Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy, New
York Medical College, and Board Member, Council for Responsible
Genetics, argued that human cloning and germline alteration
are inherently unsafe, and that it would be impossible to "get
there from here" without the unacceptable use of human
lives as experiments.
* Judy Norsigian, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Boston
Women's Health Book Collective, emphasized the special impact
that new genetic and reproductive technologies have on women
* Evelyne Shuster, Human Rights and Ethics Program, and Adjunct
Associate Professor of Philosophy and Psychiatry, University
of Pennsylvania, noted that the rhetorical categories used to
describe the new genetic technologies bias us towards their
* Susannah Sirkin, Deputy Director, Physicians for Human Rights,
recounted the strategies and tactics used by Physicians for
Human Rights to win a global treaty banning landmines.
* Ann Snyder, Executive Director, Ethics, Law and Biotechnology
Society, Harvard Law School, spoke as a member of the Harvard
student community. She called for more dialogue before making
potentially irreversible decisions.
The Conference was co-sponsored by the Boston University Health
Law Department, the Center for Genetics and Society, the Illinois
Institute of Science, Law and Technology, Global Lawyers and
Physicians, and the Harvard University Ethics, Legal and Biotechnology
Society. Special financial support for the conference was provided
by the CS Fund and the Jennifer Altman Foundation.
The conference planning team was George Annas, Richard Hayes,
Evelyne Shuster, Lori Andrews, and Patricia Baird. Key staff
assistance was provided by Evelyne Shuster, the Boston University
Health Law Department, and the Center for Genetics and Society.
Beyond Cloning website: <www.bumc.bu.edu/www/sph/lw/website/index.htm>