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Genetic Crossroads
June 12th, 2000

The effective completion of the human genome sequence by the NIH and

Celera will ignite extensive media speculation over its potential
applications. There is little question that knowledge gained from the
Human Genome Project can be applied in ways that may contribute to human
well-being. But there is also little question that other applications,
such as human germline modification, could have dire social consequences
and lead to a horrific future.

The challenge before us is to communicate the risks as well as the
benefits of particular applications of human genetic technologies; to
demonstrate that clear and enforceable lines can be drawn between what
should and should not be allowed; and to insist that such decisions be
made not by small numbers of scientists or policy makers, but by an
engaged citizenry.

Getting this message out is important because, as readers of this news-
letter are aware, a concerted effort is underway to make the case that
the genetic engineering of human beings is an inevitability.

In the days following the announcement of the genome sequencing we will
all have opportunities to convey an important message--when possible
to the media; also to colleagues and wider networks. The message is that
we need to decide which applications of genetic knowledge to allow and
which to prohibit, and that modifying the genes we pass to our children
is a clear example of an application that needs to be prohibited.

A network of scientists, health workers, activists, scholars, students
and others have begun holding meetings to discuss what needs to be done
to get such a message across to key constituencies and the public. If
you think you might want to play a role in this, contact
Contact us.

Marcy Darnovsky
Richard Hayes


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