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GE - Techno-Eugenics Newsletter

Welcome to the
Techno-Eugenics Email List Newsletter
Number 5
February 4, 2000
Supporting genetic science in the public interest 
Opposing the new techno-eugenics

This is Issue Number 5 of the Techno-Eugenics Email List 
newsletter, as far as we know the only on-line newsletter 
focused on the politics of the new human genetic and 
reproductive technologies. If you're receiving this news- 
letter for the first time, please see the instructions for 
subscribing and submitting items at the end of this message.
"We should be on our guard not to overestimate 
science and scientific methods when it is a 
question of human problems; and we should not 
assume that experts are the only ones who have 
a right to express themselves on questions 
affecting the organization of society."
-- Albert Einstein (Time Magazine's "Person 
of the Century"), May 1949.
1. Report on California Advisory Committee on Human Cloning, 
Oakland, CA, 1/27/00
1. "Asilomar 2000" meeting to assess development and regulation 
of genetic engineering, Pacific Grove, CA, 2/15 - 2/17/00 
2. AAAS symposium, "Changing the Human Future Through Germline 
Engineering," Washington, DC, 2/21/00 
3. "The New Human Genetic Technologies and Social Justice," 
Santa Cruz, CA, March 1
1. New Scientist: "The Last Taboo" 
2. Lord Robert Winston: "Genetically Modified Babies Inevitable" 
3. Charles Murray: "Deeper into the Brain"
1. Richard Hayes: "In the Pipeline: Genetically Modified Humans?" 
2. International Network on Bioethics and Disability
The third meeting of the California Advisory Committee on Human 
Cloning was held on January 27 in Oakland. About ten people who 
had been alerted about the Cloning Committee meeting by this 
newsletter attended. The committee heard from four invited speakers:
Patricia Baird, MD, Medical Genetics Department, University of 
British Columbia 
John Robertson, JD, School of Law, University of Texas 
Alta Charo, JD, University of Wisconsin School of Law 
James Warner, Professor of Ethical Studies, Loma Linda University
Of the four, only Dr. Baird spoke in clear opposition to reproductive 
human cloning. She described the work of the Canadian Royal Commission 
on New Reproductive Technologies, which she chaired and which met from 
1989-1993. The Commission solicited the views of over 40,000 Canadian 
citizens in conferences, public panels, focus groups, opinion surveys, 
and by other means. IT concluded that "there is no compelling case to 
cross the boundary and to make people by asexual means; human 
reproductive cloning is without clear potential benefits to almost all 
citizens and other options are available in most situations."
Here are a few excerpts from Dr. Baird's testimony:
"Most of the debate on human cloning [has] focused on a weighing of 
harms and benefits to individuals. This is a dangerously incomplete 
framing....We need to a framing that reveals how permitting 
cloning affects future generations and our society as a whole.... 
Cloning raises profound issues about the future of our species. We 
haven't yet found the wisdom to deal with hunger, poverty, and 
environmental degradation--we are unlikely to have the wisdom to 
direct our own evolution.
"Reproduction by nuclear transfer cloning makes it possible for the 
first time to think seriously about genetically enhancing humans.... 
All members of the public have a stake in whether cloning is permitted 
or not, because if cloned people exist, it changes things for 
everyone....The decisions should not be taken pre-emptively by a 
particular clinical facility or a particular group of scientists who 
ignore the wishes of the rest of the community....How we choose to 
use or not use this technological capacity will help shape our society 
for our children, for their children and after. How it is used is 
likely to further entrench existing inequalities, and create new 
"Once we breach this barrier, it leaves us with no clear place to 
stop....We are at a clear and appropriate stopping place on a very 
slippery slope."
For copies of Dr. Baird's full presentation, contact Richard Hayes 
at Public Media Center in San Francisco, CA: 415-434-1403 or 
1. The Asilomar 25th anniversary symposium, the "Symposium on Science, 
Ethics and Society," will be held February 15-17 in Pacific Grove, CA.
According to the program, "The presence at the symposium of a number 
of those who led and participated in the 1975 Asilomar conference will 
help to ground the discussion in a rich substrate of reality, even as 
the involvement of historians and other social scientists, lawyers, 
and philosophers will bring outsiders' perspectives. Furthermore, the 
active participation of present and past government officials, 
regulators, and critics of the scientific enterprise should supply an 
element that was largely absent twenty-five years ago."
The symposium is being organized by Professor Alexander Capron 
of the Pacific Center for Health Policy and Ethics, University of 
Southern California Law School, <>.
A preliminary schedule includes these workshops and speakers:
Welcome: Alexander Capron, University of Southern California* 
Keynote: Scientific Responsibility, Public Accountability 
Donald Fredrickson, Former Director, NIH*
Commentary: What Did the Asilomar Exercise Accomplish, and What Did 
it Leave Undone?
Paul Berg, Stanford University* 
Jonathan King, Massachusetts Institute of Technology 
Philippe Kourilsky, Institut Pasteur, Paris 
Sheldon Krimsky, Tufts* 
Robert Sinsheimer, UC Santa Barbara 
Maxine Singer, Carnegie Institution, Washington* 
Stephen Stitch, Rutgers University* 
Susan Wright, University of Michigan*
SESSION II: The Public: Alerted, Educated, Unduly Alarmed? 
Reporting Recombinant DNA: Asilomar and the Press 
Nicholas Wade, N.Y. Times*
Jerry E. Bishop, Wall Street Journal 
Donald D. Brown, Carnegie Institution, Baltimore 
R. Pierre DuMaine, former Bishop of San Jose* 
Richard Horton, editor, The Lancet 
Daniel E. Koshland Jr., UC Berkeley & former editor, Science 
Dorothy Nelkin, New York University* 
Michael Rogers, Newsweek Interactive 
Charles Weiner, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

SESSION III: Contending with Contemporary Issues in Light of the 
Accomplishments and Shortcomings of Asilomar
A. Genetically Modified Organisms 
Presenter: Christopher R. Somerville, Carnegie Institution of 
Washington & Stanford
Willy de Greef, Novartis* 
Rebecca Goldburg, Environmental Defense Fund 
Calestous Juma, Harvard University 
Julian Kinderler, University of Sheffield* 
James Maryanski, Food and Drug Administration 
Peter Starlinger, University of Cologne 
Ulrich Trohler, University of Freiburg
B. Genomics: Human Diversity, Genetic Patents and Ownership 
Presenter: Eric Lander, MIT/Whitehead
Troy Duster, New York University* 
Rebecca Eisenberg, University of Michigan 
Henry Greely, Stanford University 
Eric Juengst, Case-Western Reserve University* 
Mary-Claire King, University of Washington 
Margaret Lock, McGill University* 
Benno Muller-Hill, University of Cologne 
Henk ten Have, Catholic University, Nijmegen 
Nancy Wexler, Columbia University
C. Somatic and Germline Gene Therapy 
Presenter: Inder Verma, Salk Institute*
W. French Anderson, University of Southern California 
Paul Billings, GeneSage* 
Allen Buchanan, University of Arizona 
Theodore Friedmann, UC San Diego 
David Magnus, University of Pennsylvania 
Oliver Smithies, University of North Carolina

CLOSING SESSION: Asilomar, Then and Now: What Roles for Scientists, 
the Press, Policymakers, and the Public-at-Large? 
Chair: David Baltimore, California Institute of Technology*
Ken-ichi Arai, University of Tokyo 
Deborah Blum, University of Wisconsin 
Sydney Brenner, Cambridge University 
John Harris, University of Manchester* 
Donald Kennedy, Stanford University & Editor-designate, Science 
Daniel Kevles, California Institute of Technology* 
Kenichi Matsubara, Kyushu University 
Lennart Philipson, Uppsala University 
Harold Shapiro, Princeton University & Chair, National Bioethics 
Advisory Commission* 
Philip Sharp, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Daniel Singer, former General Counsel, Federation of American 
2. AAAS Symposium: "Changing Our Genetic Future Through Germline 
Intervention," Washington DC, Monday, February 21
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is 
preparing a set of "recommendations" concerning human germline 
engineering, and will report on them at a symposium at the AAAS 
annual meeting in Washington, DC. For more information, 
3. "The New Human Genetic Technologies and Social Justice," 
Santa Cruz, CA, Wednesday March 1
Two presentations by Dr. Marcy Darnovsky and Richard Hayes of the 
Exploratory Initiative on the New Human Genetic Technologies:
12:15 - 2:00 pm at University of California, Santa Cruz 
Natural Sciences 2 Bldg., Room 221 (behind Science Library)
7:00 - 9:00 pm at Veterans Memorial Bldg., 846 Front St., Santa 
Cruz, downtown next to main Post Office
For more information: Alexander Gaguine at 831-429-5507 or Kathy 
McAfee at 831-459-4991. 
1. New Scientist: "The Last Taboo"
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 
2. Lord Robert Winston: "Genetically Modified Babies Inevitable"
>From an article by Ann Ashburner, OTC (COMTEX Newswire):
Grahamstown (East Cape News, February 3, 2000) - Genetically 
modified babies were inevitable, said renowned fertility pioneer 
Lord Robert Winston recently. "In my view, we will certainly be 
able to make transgenic humans." Lord Winston was speaking to 
the Royal Society last week to mark his Michael Faraday Award in 
recognition of his contribution to the public understanding of 
science. During the lecture, he also discussed the inevitable 
use so-called germ-line gene therapy which effects eggs, sperm 
and thus future generations. The British government blocked 
moves in June last year to clone early embryos for the production 
of tissue for medical treatments.
Winston expressed his frustration at this debate: "I find it very 
distressing that we should be going backwards. To be hysterical 
about the use of embryos for tissue engineering does not make any 
sense if you are likely to be able to save a life." Winston's TV 
series, "Your Life In Their Hands," reached an audience of 8 million 
viewers and was one of the most successful BBC2 series ever made. 
3. Charles Murray: "Deeper into the Brain"
Murray, co-author of The Bell Curve, is the Bradley Fellow at the 
American Enterprise Institute. Here's an excerpt from an article 
he wrote in the January 24, 2000 issue of National Review, titled 
"Deeper into the Brain."
"[W]hen we know the complete genetic story, it will turn out that 
the population below the poverty line in the United States has a 
configuration of the relevant genetic makeup that is significantly 
different from the configuration of the population above the poverty 
line....As the biological basis for personal qualities statistically 
associated with social problems--low IQ, impulsiveness, short time- 
horizons, sociopathy, indolence--is understood, the old arguments 
about causality (e.g., `It's poverty and disadvantage that create 
the low IQ, not the other way around') will be resolved....
"I have no idea how the new eugenicism will play out, only a general 
expectation that eugenics, anathema today, will be a spinoff of the 
neurogenetic revolution tomorrow....[S]hould we expect that Homo 
sapiens will take it into its collective head to redesign itself?
"I confess to a certain optimism. I suppose that sex selection will 
be common, and that some parents will, if they can, opt to make their 
babies more compassionate, or more competitive, or "more" of some 
other personality trait that they favor. Some parents may want to 
grow seven-foot-tall basketball players....[But t]he popular voluntary 
uses of gene manipulation are likely to be ones that avoid birth 
defects and ones that lead to improved overall physical and mental 
abilities. I find it hard to get upset about that prospect." 
1. Richard Hayes: "In the Pipeline: Genetically Modified Humans?" 
>From Multinational Monitor, Jan/Feb 2000 <>
"Scientists have long speculated that parents would someday be able 
to genetically engineer their children for appearance, physical and 
mental abilities, or other traits of choice. For most people these 
predictions have seemed so far in the future, or so patently 
repugnant, that they didn't need to be taken very seriously. Such 
complacency is no longer possible. Well below the radar screen of 
both the general public and policy makers, a concerted campaign is 
underway to perfect and justify the technologies that would allow 
the engineering of `designer babies.'
"Supporters of the techno-eugenic future are working diligently on 
a number of fronts to advance their cause. The broad strategy 
includes the continued development of genetic manipulation 
technologies, mobilization of a credible and vocal minority of the 
public to actively embrace and call for a techno-eugenic future, 
and persuading the majority of the public that attempts to restrict 
the use of human genetic technologies would be an infringement of 
individual rights." 
2. International Network on Bioethics and Disability
This discussion group addresses many important topics regarding 
the new human genetic technologies, from the perspective of 
disabled people, and in general.
"Aim: Our aim is to form a worldwide network for the following 
goals: 1) To increase the knowledge among disabled people of 
bioethical issues. 2) To increase the dialog between disabled 
people and members of other marginalized groups on bioethical 
issues. 3) To increase the dialog between the marginalized and 
`non marginalized' groups on bioethical issues. 4) To increase 
the visibility of disabled people and other marginalized groups 
in the field of bioethics and science in general with the hope 
of promoting greater participation in decision-making processes 
and decision-making bodies related to bioethical issues and 
science in general. The coordinators are Christopher Newell 
(Australia) and Gregor Wolbring (Canada)."
To subscribe, email <>.
For more info contact: Dr. Gregor Wolbring, Department of 
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Calgary. 
Phone 1-403-220-5448; email <>; 
website <>. 
This newsletter stems from the work of academics, activists, and 
others in the San Francisco Bay Area who are concerned about the 
direction of the new human genetic technologies.
We support technologies that serve the public interest. We oppose 
those--including human germline engineering and human cloning--that 
foster inequality, discrimination, objectification, and the 
commodification of human genes and tissues.
This newsletter is intended to alert and inform concerned individuals 
about the new technologies and the techno-eugenic vision. For at 
least the next several months, the newsletter will be irregular 
(a couple times a month), informal, and non-automated. We'd welcome 
feedback, and suggestions about focus and format. A web site will 
be coming soon.
Marcy Darnovsky will moderate. Send submissions to her via the email 
address below.
Unless we hear from you, we'll keep you on this list. Please let us 
know if you don't want to receive the newsletter---we won't feel 
rejected! On the other hand, feel free to forward it to others who 
may be interested, and encourage them to subscribe by reply to Marcy. 
If you're a new subscriber, let us know if you'd like to receive 
back issues.
Marcy Darnovsky, Ph.D. Richard Hayes, M.A.