If you were able to create a list of characteristics (physical or otherwise) to modify your future baby, would you give your baby hazel eyes, or make sure he/she is tall?
There has been a lot of controversy and talk about genetically engineered babies. Concern is rising in recent news because scientists have gotten closer than ever before. Daniel Bier is the founder and Editor of The Skeptical Librarian. In his blog post The World’s First (and last) Genetically Modified Babies, Bier reintroduces the topic with concern. His concern isn’t for modifying baby DNA but for the resistance the topic got.
Take a look at this video about 23andMe and a patent they were granted that not only lets people learn more about their genes but also allows people to play with a Traits Calculator.
Bier argues that 12 women have given birth to healthy babies by a process called cytoplasmic transfer, taking eggs from the mother and injecting healthy mitochondria from donor eggs. Then the eggs were fertilized with the father’s sperm and injected back into the mother. Bier’s blog claims that the success in such projects was criticized and widely rejected and he continues to express concern for people who are unable to benefit from this genetic modification.
Bier’s concern is too short sighted. Just because the babies came out healthy, doesn’t hide the fact that they are babies of an extra persons DNA. A New York Times article, Genetically Modified Babies, presents the uncertainty of long term effects. The DNA injected into the eggs means the baby is made up of three people’s DNA. We have no idea the effects this could have on the following generations. Read this article about The Girl With Three Biological Parents. Although research has been done on monkeys who have been monitored into adulthood, there is no way to tell residual effect. Never mind the fact that human fertilized eggs are much more sensitive than those of monkeys.
Bier’s concern for people who hit genetic roadblocks in child conception drives him to believe that we should be able to let science take the reins and engineer more babies. The resistance to this idea harbors the ethical concerns of playing “God” and unknown future effects. There are still adoption options and use of vitro fertilization that doesn’t require enhancing or modifying the existing/natural DNA of babies.
Please share your thoughts on Genetically Modified Babies.