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EDITORS' NOTE

Genetic Crossroads
May 16th, 2001



Since the beginning of the year human cloning has become a live political

issue in countries around the world. Even in the United States, where
the

technologies of human genetic manipulation are being most aggressively

promoted, a federal cloning ban will soon be debated. (See below.)


A US ban on human cloning would be an important step toward bringing

human genetic and reproductive technologies under societal control.
But

it would be only a first step. The US must also join those countries

that have already outlawed human germline engineering. This technology,

which would allow the production of genetically "enhanced"
children,

would serve as the keystone of a frankly eugenic agenda that has

gathered a disturbing number of adherents among scientists and others.


"Genetic enhancement" has also been in the news of late:
on the front

page of the New York Times (May 11, "Someday Soon, Athletic Edge
May

Be From Altered Genes") and in the May 14 issue of Sports Illustrated

("Unnatural Selection: Genetic Engineering is About to Produce
a New

Breed of Athlete Who Will Obliterate the Limits of Human Performance").


Both articles focus on the introduction of genes into existing people.

(Medical experiments with such gene transfer procedures, technically


known as "somatic" genetic engineering, are currently underway
in

clinical trials.)


Both articles acknowledge that the use of genetic engineering to


"enhance" individuals would be medically dangerous, and
politically

and ethically controversial. But both also contain many claims that


such procedures are inevitable. The NY Times article, for example,


states that "athletes, scientists and sports administrators universally


agree that someone will attempt genetic engineering, if they have
not

already." And both blur somatic gene transfer, germline engineering,


and other eugenic practices such as the purchase of human eggs from


women thought to be in some way "superior."


As techno-eugenic advocate Gregory Stock writes, "[H]uman cloning
is

most significant as a symbol: it has served notice that humanity is

going to change more than the landscape we inhabit. . .Whether or
not

human cloning is banned will have little impact on that critical

transformation because biotechnology is racing ahead on a broad front."

Gregory Stock, The Prospects for Human Germline Engineering, 1/29/99,

<www.heise.de/tp/english/inhalt/co/2621/1.htm>.

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