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The Perilous Road Ahead: Designer Babies and Other Patented Life Forms.

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In 2001, a study1 announcing the successful birth of the world’s first genetically engineered babies—30 in total—was published. This staggering development didn’t receive media attention until nearly a decade later.


The children were created using genes from TWO women and one man—a process referred to as ooplasmic transplantation, in which genes from a female donor are inserted into another woman’s eggs before being fertilized with a man’s sperm.


What the ramifications of having the genetic traits of three parents might be for the individual, or for their subsequent offspring, is still unknown.


However, based on what I’ve learned about the genetic engineering of plants, I’m inclined to say the consequences could be vast, dire, and most likely completely unexpected.


In fact, it only took two years for follow-up reports to begin discussing problems encountered in these genetically engineered babies. According to one such report:2


Despite such risks, and the lack of public discussion about these kinds of ventures, genetic scientists are steadily forging ahead, bringing us ever closer to the reality of “designer babies”—children born with traits predetermined by the parents’ choice.

“A frank follow-up of ooplasmic transplantation pregnancies and infants reports that two out of 17 fetuses had an abnormal 45, XO karyotype. The authors assume the hypothesis of a link between chromosomal anomalies and oocytes manipulation, and reveal that one of the babies has been diagnosed at 18 months with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a spectrum of autism-related diagnoses."



As a matter of fact, the genetic modification of humans appears to have been running alongside the genetic engineering of plants, being just a few years behind in terms of the technology being unleashed. The lack of proper evaluation of health effects is apparently on par as well, which is to say near non-existent.



Could Humans Eventually Become Patented Property?

As recently reported by BBC News,3 a US patent has been filed for a DNA testing database, which would be used by prospective parents to find out which traits their future offspring might inherit. Critics call it “ethically and socially treacherous,” and I’m inclined to agree. According to the featured article:


... But critics remain concerned that such technology could be misused. 'It would be highly irresponsible for 23andMe or anyone else to offer a product or service based on this patent,' said Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society... We believe the patent office made a serious mistake in allowing a patent that includes drop-down menus for which to choose a future child's traits.’”

“23andMe says its Family Traits Inheritor Calculator can predict the risk of inheriting specific diseases as well as details such as height, weight, eye color and even personality. Couples send the firm a saliva sample to see what their babies might be like.



One nightmarish scenario humanity might be faced with, should genetic engineering and designing of humans continue unchecked, is the potential for a patent war; meaning these genetically engineered humans could become patentable property.

Sound crazy?


You bet! But it’s not outside the realm of possibility. The world is already embroiled in discussions about which genetically engineered life forms can and cannot be patented,4 and biotech companies have secured patents on everything from genetically modified seeds to engineered animals of various kinds.


Furthermore, as of 2005, nearly 20 percent of human genes were already patented,5 and are explicitly claimed as intellectual property by one company or another. Unchallenged, what’s to stop a company from eventually claiming patent rights on an entire individual?


In an effort to put the brakes on this disturbing trend, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)6 has sued the US Patent and Trademark Office to stop the practice of issuing patents that are contrary to the law—which states that only inventions can be patented; not naturally-occurring parts of the human body. As explained by the ACLU:7


Thankfully, on June 13 this year, the US Supreme Court unanimously invalidated the patents on BRCA 1 and BRCA 2—an important victory in the fight to reclaim our genes.8 But we still have a long way to go. Patenting of seeds, for example, is just as hazardous to the future of mankind as the patenting of human genes.

“For example, Myriad Genetics, a private biotechnology company based in Utah, controls patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes [two genes associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer]. Because of its patents, Myriad has the right to prevent anyone else from testing, studying, or even looking at these genes. It also holds the exclusive rights to any mutations along those genes. No one is allowed to do anything with the BRCA genes without Myriad's permission.”


Full article:



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