Responding to a Chinese scientist’s claims that he has created GM babies, Dr David King, Director of Human Genetics Alert http://www.hgalert.org/, says:
“If these claims are true, the world has changed – it’s a day that I and many others have dreaded. But it underscores the need for an immediate global ban on the cloning and genetic engineering of human beings.
“If they want to prove that science is not out of control, the international summit on genome editing in Hong Kong this week must call on governments for a global ban. If they don’t, it’s time for the people to take away their licence to operate, as we did with GM food in Britain.
“Although some scientists have condemned He Jiankui’s criminal eugenic experiments, the truth is that they have themselves provided cover for him. Although there is no medical need whatever for genetic engineering of human beings, scientists’ organisations always oppose a global ban.
“Just a few months ago, a Nuffield Council on Bioethics panel dominated by scientists even supported the straightforward designer baby ‘enhancement’ that He has indulged in.”
“The horrible history of eugenics in the 20th century should show people the disastrous consequences of going down this path, and it should not be forgotten that China still has a eugenics law on its statute books. To mention this in a time of resurgent global right-wing extremism and racism is not scaremongering.
“In fact, there is a very direct link to those politics here: just down the road in Shenzen is the BGI genomics company which has been working with London-based geneticist Robert Plomin to identify ‘the genes for high intelligence’, using samples from China’s elite science and mathematics schools.
“Just two weeks ago, one of their collaborators, Steve Hsu, who has spoken of radically increasing human IQ, announced (2) that his company was offering genetic tests for ‘IQ genes’. How long will it be until people like He start trying to create a new genetically engineered high IQ elite?
“There has been a strong international consensus for many years, embodied in laws and treaties, that human genetic engineering would be a disaster. The fact that such laws take the extraordinary step of banning scientific experiments before they were even technically feasible shows the strength of the social reasons behind them.
“China should follow suit and ensure that He Jiankui is prosecuted as a warning to others,” Dr King concludes.
Notes for editors
- Human Genetics Alert is an independent secular watchdog group that supports abortion rights. Dr David King is a former molecular biologist.