May 242013
 

On June 6, join Milton Reynolds of Facing History and Ourselves in conversation with Stuart Newman as they consider some of the social justice and ethical challenges associated with these developments.

In 1997, New York Medical College cell biologist Stuart Newman applied for a patent on what he called a “humanzee” — part human, part chimp — to call attention to the social and ethical hazards of biotech patenting and human genetic modification. The Patent Office finally rejected that application in 2005, but the issues it raised remain distressingly relevant.

As was the case in the late 1990s, a small but disturbing number of biotechnologists and others are openly advocating using advances in the life sciences to arc toward an age of “designer children.”  Some recent developments include:

  • Researchers in the UK and the U.S. are currently seeking approval for human trials of a technique that would constitute a form of inheritable genetic modification, overturning long-standing legal prohibitions in dozens of countries.
  • A few vocal bioethicists are promoting the view that parents have a “moral obligation” to pre-select the traits of their children.
  • A California fertility clinic is creating, marketing and selling embryos it has created from selected egg and sperm providers; another advertised embryo screening for hair, eye and skin color, in addition to offering social sex selection.

On June 6, join Milton Reynolds of Facing History and Ourselves in conversation with Stuart Newman as they consider some of the social justice and ethical challenges associated with these developments.

Newman will help us understand the technologies that would enable inheritable genetic modification of humans, the views among life scientists about them, and the fringe ideology of “transhumanism.” Reynolds will contextualize the current promotion of “techno-eugenics” and designer children by revisiting America’s eugenic legacies, including more than 60,000 state-sponsored sterilizations of people with disabilities, low-income people, and people of color during the 20th century.

Additionally, together with audience members, they will consider some of the worrying biotech-related practices underway now, including:

  • The U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering whether to overturn the current policy of granting patents on human genes, allowing corporate control of what UNESCO and other international agencies call “the common heritage of humanity.”
  • Young women are being targeted to provide their eggs as raw material for research.
  • Communities of color are being disproportionately burdened by the accelerating expansion of police DNA databases.
  • Racial justice advocates are warning that widespread misuse of racial categories in genetic research threatens to revive discredited ideas about “race” as a biological rather than political category.
  • Disability rights groups are concerned about prenatal testing technologies that (falsely) promise biologically “perfect” children.

East Bay Conversations: “Patent Pending: The Rise of GM Humans”

Thursday June 6, 2013; 7:30-9:30 pm

David Brower Center, 2150 Allston Way

FREE

For more info: www.SynBioWatch.org or call 510 982-1285

 

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