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Campaign Against Human Genetic Engineering



From: The Campaign Against Human Genetic Engineering (cahge@globalnet.co.uk; www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~cahge)

NEW WEBSITE TO OPPOSE HUMAN GENETIC ENGINEERING

The Campaign Against Human Genetic Engineering (CAHGE) has set up a website to allow opponents of human genetic engineering to send email to US decision makers. The new site also has news and background information on moves to engineer human beings.

CAHGE is also asking everyone to send email to the US Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC), which is holding a conference on the issue on January 7th-8th 1999. RAC has refused to allow opponents of human genetic engineering to speak at the conference. Please email Debra Knorr at RAC (lawsonb@od.nih.gov), before January 7th, stating your opposition to the proposals, and to their biased 'debate'. Don't believe that your voice doesn't make a difference: at a recent conference in London, the chair of the RAC, Claudia Mickleson, said that email lobbying had already surprised the committee. But we need much more pressure to really change official thinking.

Please forward a copy of your message to CAHGE, so we can send you campaign updates. We would also like to post people's messages on our website: please let us know in your email if you are willing for us to put your message on the site.

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BACKGROUND

An influential lobby of scientists and others is proposing to take the first step towards a new eugenics. Scientists such as James Watson (one of the discoverers of the structure of DNA) and others, are proposing to extend existing genetic techniques to human sperm, eggs and embryos, so that genetic changes are inherited by all the offspring of the person who has been genetically engineered. (Until now, such techniques known as gene therapy, have been restricted to non-reproductive body cells, so they are not inherited.) Human genetic engineering is banned in Europe and many other countries, but not in the USA.

The Campaign Against Human Genetic Engineering (CAHGE) has been set up to provide an international response to this threat. CAHGE believes that medical justifications offered for such experiments are spurious. Once human genetic engineering is permitted it will inevitably be used to try to eliminate certain disabilities, and for purposes of eugenic 'enhancement', or for cosmetic purposes. Our immediate aim is to block the first concrete proposal to do experiments which will result in the birth of genetically engineered human beings.

A US scientist, W. French Anderson, is proposing to perform gene therapy on foetuses, by injecting them with genetically engineered viruses. This technique runs the risk that the virus will infect reproductive cells and will so lead to the birth of genetically engineered humans. Anderson, who is an advocate of human genetic engineering, says that he wants to use these proposals to 'force the debate' on human genetic engineering.

The British Gene Therapy Advisory Committee has already said it would not accept such proposals on both safety and ethical grounds. The US-based Council for Responsible Genetics is campaigning against Anderson's proposals, but human genetic engineering is an international issue, so CAHGE is helping to organise international opposition.

Why we oppose French Anderson's foetal gene therapy proposals:

1. They will lead to the birth of genetically engineered humans. This is unacceptable under any circumstances. Human genetic engineering would inevitably lead to full scale eugenics and 'designer babies'.

2. There are safe alternative treatments: Anderson's experiments are medically unnecessary. Foetal gene therapy is scientifically premature, given the lack of success of gene therapy on adults and children.

3. The genetically engineered virus could cause harmful mutations which may be worse than the diseases he is seeking to treat, and will be inherited by all the descendants of the treated foetus.

4. Neither the foetus, nor its descendants can give informed consent to becoming genetically engineered.


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