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Genetic Crossroads
April 16th, 2000


1. Japan may make human cloning a crime

Legislation that would criminalize human reproductive cloning
and

the creation of human-animal chimeras has been drafted by a
Japanese

government agency. According to unidentified sources cited in

Japanese media, offenders could go to prison for 3 to 7 years.


See <http://www.mainichi.co.jp/english/news/archive/200003/08/news05.html>
and

<http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,3971457,00.html>.



2. Jeremy Rifkin's comments on proposed
moratorium on somatic gene

therapy trials using viral vectors


The death of 18-year-old Jesse Gelsinger last fall in a gene
therapy

trial led to revelations of hundreds of adverse effects in other

trials that had not been reported to the proper US government
agency.

Some trials have been shut down, and Congressional hearings
have been

held.


For Rifkin's remarks, see <http://www.biotechcentury.org/breaking.html>.



3. Scandal over Iceland's plan for a
private gene database


In 1998, the Icelandic parliament approved a controversial
project

to create a genetic database on the country's population. In
January

of this year, it granted the biotech company deCODE an exclusive


license to the database for 12 years. Now Icelanders are up
in arms

because of new accusations that deCODE gave large donations
to Iceland's

political parties while the bill granting deCODE exclusive rights
to

the database was being considered.


See <http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,35024,00.html>.



4. EU challenges patent on human cloning


In February, Greenpeace discovered and publicized that the
European

Patent Office had granted a patent that included human reproductive


cloning. The Patent Office immediately admitted a "mistake"
and

asked that a third party file a notice of opposition, which
would

allow it to revoke the patent. Greenpeace, hundreds of individuals


and organizations, and the German government did so. On March
30,

the European Parliament voted 285 to 133 to oppose the illegal
patent,

and called for better control of the Patent Office.


See <http://www.greenpeace.org/~geneng/highlights/pat/00_02_24.htm>.



5. Critique of the "basketball gene"


"A Feckless Quest for the Basketball Gene" is the
title of an op-ed

piece by UC Berkeley biological anthropologist Jonathan Marks
in the

April 8, 2000 New York Times. Marks critiques the genetic reductionism

exemplified by a new book called "Taboo: Why Black Athletes
Dominate

Sports and Why We're Afraid to Talk About It" by Jon Entine.


See <http://www.nytimes.com/00/04/08/oped/08mark.html>.

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