GE - Three on Human and animal biotech
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- Date: Thu, 23 Sep 1999 13:40:21 +0100
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Eugenics Science friction
Jay Griffiths hears allegations of racism over social engineering
Guardian Society Wednesday September 22, 1999
Biotechnology is the great new hope for eugenicists, who have long advocated
"improving" the human race by controlling the genes transmitted to future
generations. New reproductive and genetic technology, together with human
cloning, has given birth to what is being called the New Eugenics.
Eugenics was widely discredited earlier this century because it advocated many
of the measures adopted or promoted in the US and wartime Germany:
sterilisation of the "mentally unfit", disabled people and those judged to
social problems. Eugenecists also sought incentives to encourage educated
people to have more children.
Using biotechnology for social engineering is now becoming a popular issue
among leading scientists. Robert Edwards, test-tube baby pioneer and expert on
pre-implantation diagnosis, was quoted two months ago as saying: "Soon it will
be a sin of parents to have a child that carries the heavy burden of genetic
disease. We are entering a world where we have to consider the quality of our
Eugenics has long met with fierce resistance. In London last week, a
of the Galton Institute - a charity which was formerly the Eugenics Society -
was disrupted by protesters. Prof Glayde Whitney, from the department of
psychology at Florida State University, was about to talk on "Reproduction
Technology for a New Eugenics" when a protester told the audience of academics
and others that Whitney had written the foreword to a book by David Duke,
former leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
Other protesters, from a group called People Against Eugenics, then stormed
lecture hall and the conference was abandoned, with the chair, Dr John Timson,
saying: "They are fascists preventing us speaking and I hope none of them are
British because I'd hate to have to share a nationality with them."
Two other speakers were singled out by the protesters. One, Prof Richard Lynn,
director of the Ulster Institute for Social Research, had earlier argued that
natural selection had effectively stopped working because "less fit and
intelligent people" with "weak moral character" had higher fertility rates
fitter, more intelligent ones.
But he said that there could be a brighter genetic future ahead because of New
Eugenics, which meant the use of biotechnology to improve genetic quality. The
methods he discussed included sperm banks for those with IQs over a certain
level, pre-natal diagnoses and pre-implantation screening for in vitro
fertilisation. He foresaw that human cloning would be used in "state-driven
eugenics", with cloning of the most intelligent people by repressive
while eugenics would be individually-driven in free societies.
The other academic targeted by protesters was Prof Arthur Jensen, professor of
educational psychology at the University of California, who has claimed that
the IQ difference between black and white people in the US is genetically
caused and has urged "genetic foresight".
David King, former geneticst and now editor of GenEthics News, was one of the
organisers of the protest. He says: "It is assumed that the ideas of eugenics
were so discredited by the events culminating in the Holocaust that there
not possibly be an organised Eugenics Society. It is a surprise to find that
the organisation is influential, wealthy and well respected in academia. The
fact that someone is a member of the Eugenics Society does not necessarily
them a racist or Nazi. In fact, the history of eugenics shows that many
liberals, socialists and even Marxists have supported eugenics."
But does New Technology mean Old Racism? Both Jensen and Lynn have received
grants from the Pioneer Fund in the US which has supported racist causes such
as segregation in the southern states. One of Lynn's comments at last week's
conference was that "blacks have a lower IQ than whites and part of the reason
for this is genetic". He has previously gone on the record as saying that
"blacks have high levels of testosterone that makes males aggressive and this
probably contributes to their high crime rate".
Whitney responded to the allegations of links with the KKK by calling the
protesters' comments silly propaganda and untrue. When asked to explain why he
wrote the foreword for Duke's book - distributed by the neo-Nazi Stormfront
Organisation - he said: "He [Duke] was the former head of the Ku Klux Klan.
This does not affiliate me with the KKK. I'm non-political. . . Duke is the
only American politician who is prepared to face the issues: genetics, race
Virginia residents oppose transgenic-cattle farm
Wednesday, September 22, 1999
By Rex Bowman, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.
Worried that genetically altered cows will produce genetically altered
manure, some residents of Craig County, Va. fear a proposed transgenic
cattle farm will pollute their groundwater with mutant cow dung.
They oppose Pharming Healthcare Inc.'s plan to bring to Craig a herd of 200
cows capable of producing human proteins in milk. If the proteins -- used
to make medicines -- are in the cows' milk, they could end up in the cows'
urine and manure as well, said Patricia Smith, a resident of the western
Virginia county who opposes Pharming's plan.
"This is a very beautiful place, and it's an uncontaminated environment,"
Smith said. "It's very troubling to us to think what could happen if a
human genetic component contaminated our streams and creeks and groundwater."
Pharming President Otto Postma said residents have nothing to fear: The
cows are genetically designed to excrete the proteins only in milk.
"It's not a practical issue," Postma said. "The production of the
pharmaceutical proteins is controlled by a specific DNA package, called the
transgene. The transgene has been put together in a specific way to direct
production only in the milk."
As for the manure, Postma said it'll be as safe as that produced by regular
cows, and Pharming probably will sell or give it to local farmers to use as
Postma likely will have to explain the genetic process again Friday, during
an information meeting on Pharming's planned operation. The meeting is
scheduled for 7 p.m. at Craig County High School in New Castle, and
opponents of the proposed transgenic cattle farm say they'll be there
Earlier this year, Pharming, a subsidiary of Dutch pharmaceutical company
Pharming Group, N.V., announced that it would build $37 million worth of
plants in Craig and at Virginia Tech to make medicines from genetically
altered cow's milk.
Because the cows contain human genes, their milk produces large amounts of
human proteins. One of the proteins produced in the milk can create an
"instant scab" capable of stanching the flow of blood from injuries.
Another protein promotes blood clotting and can keep hemophiliacs from
bleeding to death. Both products await clinical tests.
As biotechnology moves more and more from research to commercial
development, companies such as Pharming Healthcare have an obligation to
give straight answers to their neighbors, said Sheldon Krimsky, professor
of environmental policy at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., and a board
member of the Council for Responsible Genetics, a national group of
scientists and public health advocates.
"There are really two areas of concern," said Krimsky, author of the book
"Agricultural Biotechnology and the Environment."
"First, are the proteins localized? Are they just expressed in the milk, or
do they come out in other aspects? If they're being expressed in other ways
from the animals, then that's a concern. Also, another issue or area of
concern is the spread of antibiotic resistance factors. Sometimes, in the
laboratory, you attach antibiotic resistance to cells. Could this create
bacteria resistant to antibiotics?"
Postma said the cows have been genetically altered to resist a single
antibiotic, but he can envision no scenario in which that would be a
problem. The resistance cannot spread beyond the cows' cells, he said.
Despite Pharming's announced intentions and reassurances, Darlene Walden,
who owns a 50-acre farm next to the site where Pharming hopes to locate its
operation, said neighbors are worried that the company hasn't told them
"My concern is that I'm not sure what they're doing," Walden said. "They
haven't been very open."
Craig residents have sent up to 100 written questions to Pharming. The
company plans to have answers to each of them ready in time for Friday's
meeting, a spokeswoman said.
According to the BBC website:
The UK and US governments are planning an agreement
to prevent the 100,000 human genes being patented by
There has been widespread concern that the full medical
benefits that could flow from decoding the human genome
will not be achieved if the genes become private intellectual
property and are exploited for profit.
A first draft of the human genome is expected early next
year. Critics of gene patents say that the licences that
would then be required would make it too expensive for
new treatments and cures to be developed.
But drug companies have argued in the past that,
without patenting, they cannot fund the expensive drug
research required, as they have no guarantee of
recovering their investment.
The UK-owned Wellcome Trust and the US National
Institute of Health (NIH) already make each gene public
within 24 hours of its discovery, which prevents patenting
unless a company has already filed patent applications.
The new proposal would probably be a strong statement
against patenting. Legislation is less likely due to the
long time it would take to pass.
Dr Michael Morgan is chief executive of the Wellcome
Trust's Genome Campus, Cambridge, UK, which is
carrying out a large part of the international Human
Genome Project. He told the BBC "This would be a
tremendous step forward in ensuring that this
information, which belongs to all of us, would be made
"A strong statement would send a very powerful
message to future legislators and, indeed, to the lawyers
who might well end up fighting cases in courts."
He did not believe the move would inhibit new medical
discoveries, as a map of a gene does not reveal its
function - that would remain to be discovered. What it
would do, Dr Morgan said, was to "ensure that no one
company can stop others working on a gene."
The plan has come to light through documents released
to the UK's Guardian newspaper under US freedom of
These show that Lord Sainsbury and Neal Lane,
respectively science minister and adviser to the UK
Prime Minister and US President, have had a number of
These are aimed at turning what is called the Bermuda
agreement - an informal agreement not to patent and to
make public all research on human genes - into a full
Celera accelerates worries
Much of the concern about human gene patenting has
involved Craig Venter, a pioneering US scientist and
entrepreneur. His company, Celera, has claimed it will
sequence the 100,000 genes before an international
collaboration, the Human Genome Project, does so. This
could allow Professor Venter to patent the genes.
He had sought a patenting agreement with the US
Department of Energy (DoE) to protect Celera's
investment. But a released email says that agreement
has been withdrawn and the US DoE is now "working
with NIH and the Wellcome Trust as a group on any
The UK Department of Trade and Industry has confirmed
that negotiations on an intergovernmental agreement are