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Chapter One gives a brief overview of the material covered in the book. It introduces the issue of modern, consumerist eugenics and the complicated web of issues that genetic technologies raise.

Some possibilities are benign, others horrifying. They might include (for example) targeted drugs, gene therapy, embryo selection, research cloning, designer babies and even new species. If you look on those as a continuum, then:

Where do we draw the line?

Equally important:

Who decides?

You don't have to be an expert to join in these debates; these are political decisions, and we are all responsible for making them. This book provides the introduction you need and resources to find out more.

The chapter's section titles, below, are followed by

There are many more resources in the Appendix.














Box 1.1 Acronyms, Euphemisms and Insults




The public debate over human biotechnology is just beginning. Experts have been discussing the implications of genetic research for decades, but only in the last few years have these topics begun to reach the political agenda.

Cloning has hit the headlines, and so has the partly related question of embryonic stem cell research. We still don't have a federal law to regulate either of them, and research continues anyway. Meanwhile, some practitioners in the fertility industry are looking to expand the market for their services to include not only sex selection but "designer baby" options. Once again, the political issues remain: Who decides what is acceptable and how should those decisions be enforced?

These developments are occurring against a background of people forgetting — or misrepresenting — the terrible history of eugenics in the twentieth century. Eugenics was not primarily developed by the Nazis, although they used it to justify their prejudices. Eugenics was an appalling idea mostly advocated by well-meaning people. It's coming back, this time as a consumer option, in a high-tech form that has appropriately been dubbed "techno-eugenics."

The US has no effective and comprehensive laws governing the use and abuse of these technologies. Scientists as well as the general public would benefit from a system that both provided oversight against abuse and protected the legitimate rights of researchers. Until we can develop something that provides those reassurances, this debate is only going to get more urgent.

Genetically engineered (GE; see Box 1.1) food is routinely sold in American supermarkets. GE mice are created and cloned all the time for scientific experiments. Cloned cattle are being created and auctioned off. Glowing GE fish are being sold as pets, and a company called Genetic Savings and Clone is even selling cloned cats. Every month, it seems, there's another "breakthrough." What's next?


The prospect of Human GE sends shivers down most spines. ...



Free Documents from the Web

Links were checked and functioning as of 5/07/05; they are supposed to open in new windows. Please report broken ones.

The New Technologies of Human Genetic Modification: A Threshold Challenge for Humanity is a 56-page pdf file (565k) published by the Center for Genetics and Society (CGS) in Oakland, CA; includes an overview essay, key quotes and documents from advocates and opponents of the new human genetic technologies, and more.

A Spanish version, Las Nuevas Technologías de la Modificación Genética Humana: Un Umbral de Desafío para la Humanidad, is available as web pages only.

"The Quiet Campaign for Genetically Engineered Humans," an article by CGS Director Richard Hayes, was first published in Earth Island Journal, Spring 2001.

"Yuppie Eugenics: Creating a world with genetic haves and have-nots," is a succinct overview by Ruth Hubbard and Stuart Newman, two professors and founding members of the Council for Responsible Genetics (CRG) in Cambridge, MA.

Why Should I Be Concerned About Human Genetics? is a 12-page pdf file (approx 400k) published by Human Genetics Alert in Britain. Americans beware: It's in A4 format, so check the "shrink oversized pages to paper size" option when printing.

WorldWatch produced a special issue in July/August 2002, called "Beyond Cloning." It is available as two pdf files, 10 and 28 pages long, (288k, 1.1mb), with 16 different articles covering a wide range of related topics.

Bill McKibben's fine book Enough is highly recommended (see below); an article in Orion, May-June 2003, called "Designer Genes" gives a short taste.

Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness is a 2003 Report by the President's Council on Bioethics, available as a 347-page pdf (4.5mb), as one or a series of web pages, or by request in printed form. It is particularly good on athletes and on the distinction between therapy and enhancement.

Stuart Newman's "Averting the clone age: prospects and perils of human developmental manipulation," from the Journal of Contemporary Health Law and Policy (Vol. 19, No. 2, Spring 2003) pages 431-463, is posted as a 33-page pdf (256k).

Protecting the Endangered Human: Toward an International Treaty Prohibiting Cloning and Inheritable Alterations by G.J. Annas, L.B. Andrews and R.M. Isasi, from the American Journal of Law and Medicine, v28, nos. 2,3, a legal overview, is a 29-page pdf (236k).

E Magazine did a cover story called "Designer People" by Sally Deneen in early 2001 that is still relevant and very readable.

If Cloning is the Answer, What was the Question? Power and Decision-Making in the Geneticisation of Health is the wonderful title of Briefing 16 by The Corner House, available as either a web page or a 44-page pdf (532k). It was written in 1999, but raises many of the right questions.

The Wisdom of Repugnance by Leon R. Kass is one of the few magazine articles that deserves the adjective "classic." It first appeared in The New Republic on 2 June, 1997, in response to the first cloned sheep, and was reprinted as part of The Ethics of Human Cloning, by Leon R. Kass and James Q. Wilson.




Bill McKibben, Enough, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2003; a superb narrative overview from a noted environmentalist

Brian Tokar, ed., Redesigning Life: The Worldwide Challenge to Genetic Engineering, Zed Books, 2001; an important collection of essays

Francis Fukuyama, Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotech-nology Revolution, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, New York, 2002

Jeremy Rifkin, The Biotech Century, Tarcher/Putnam, 1998

Andrew Kimbrell, The Human Body Shop, Regnery Publishing, 1997