Our Assembly-Line Future?

Photo source Alana Escoto | CC BY 2.0

Human civilization has taken an important turn with the publication of a new report by the Nuffield Council, the semi-official bioethics agency of the United Kingdom. The document, two years in preparation, gives the go-ahead to genetically engineer human beings at the embryonic stages of development. The report stated: “There is potential for heritable genome editing interventions to be used at some point in the future in assisted human reproduction, as a means for people to secure certain characteristics in their children.” If history is a guide, the U.S. will not lag far behind the U.K. in following this dangerous path.

The U.K. pioneered human genetic engineering by approving, earlier this year, a technique to construct embryos using parts of the eggs of two different women, along with a man’s sperm, to create “three-person embryos.” Though deceptively promoted as “mitochondrial transfer,” the procedure really involves transferring around 20 thousand genes from a woman with impaired mitochondria into another woman’s egg. The accurate “three-person” designation was only widely used in the scientific literature after the procedure became legal. Similar misrepresentations of the technicalities are contained in the Nuffield recommendations.

Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel, Brave New World, recounted the dire social consequences of purposefully fashioning humans with different biological endowments. His method of…

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