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New Scientist: "The Last Taboo"

Genetic Crossroads
February 4th, 2000

An editorial in the October 23, 1999 New Scientist is titled, "The

Last Taboo: If genetic engineering could be made safe, would you
let your baby have it?"

The editorial comes out strongly in opposition to a hypothetical
ban on research using artificial chromosomes in human tissues.
If artificial chromosomes "fulfill their promise," the editors
write, "they could revolutionize scientists' ability to genetically
engineer embryos. They may never make the outcome totally
predictable, but they could make it safe enough to ease the worst
fears about genetic accidents. And that could change perceptions."

The editorial concludes: "As for designer babies, nobody is going
to approve of them in the abstract. But if you ask would-be parents
if they'd like to give their children a head-start at school or on
the athletics track, don't be surprised to find that the opposition
is less than absolute….[I]t would be a mistake to expect the taboo
on human genetic engineering to last forever. Some day someone will
want to try it. The invention of artificial chromosomes doesn't make
that desirable--only people can make that judgment. But it does add
to the forces that are now beginning to make it seem inevitable."

The complete editorial is online at


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