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Scientists, Activists, and Biotech Execs Debate Human Genetic
Modification at State of the World Forum

Genetic Crossroads
October 16th, 2000


Panelists at the fifth annual State of the World Forum, held in New York
in September, offered starkly divergent evaluations of human genetic
technology, with scientists and activists questioning biotech executives'
predictions of medical miracles.

Among the panelists were "soft energy" scientist Amory Lovins; Martha
Herbert, pediatric neurologist and member of the Council for Responsible
Genetics board; Judy Gobert, spokesperson for two Native American tribes;
and Robert Lanza, vice president of Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), the
company that claims to be "saving endangered species" by cloning them.

ACT's Lanza claimed that the production of "designer babies" will begin
soon: "We're close to being able to add 20 or 30 points to your baby's
IQ, or an equivalent boost of their muscle mass. . .and who among us
wouldn't say, `Yes'?"

Amory Lovins said, "We know that in larger ecosystems, introducing
foreign agents upsets things in unpredictable and often unhappy ways. . .
I feel the same way about putting bits of xeno-DNA, or even DNA from
our species, into our genes." Lovins also pointed out that the goal of
genetic engineering "is profitability, not biofitness."

Judy Gobert argued that patents on DNA should not be granted, and
objected to industry or government scientists asking native Americans
to provide their own DNA for research purposes. Martha Herbert argued
that human germline engineering is misguided, dangerous, and unethical,
and should be banned.

(Phillip Frazer, "Genetic medicine promises baby geniuses, and
nightmares," <http://www.simulconference.com/public/sowf/sowf/
dispatches/dispatch29.html
>.)


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