While in other parts of the world, ever more people are standing up against genetically modified foods, the US is on its way to allowing the genetic modification of children!
The US government is considering passing a bill that would legalize the modification of human embryos, the stated goal being preventing inherited diseases from the parents. The new bill comes as a proposal from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).
The New York Times writes that scientists are fully prepared and have developed the technology with which to alter the genetic makeup of a person in the earliest stages of their development - the embryo. At the time being, only the legal side to this is being examined. Once complete, genetically modified humans from sci-fi movies may become reality.
The technology itself is called mitochondrial manipulation. Nucleic material is taken from the egg cell or embryo, injected with a genetically inherited disease and then grafted on to a healthy egg cell or embryo from a donor. Then, a healthy child is born. However, the newborn carries the genes of 3 people - mother, father and donor.
The technology is intended for elderly couples, sick parents and people with reproductive problems. But there is already heated debate on the subject in the scientific communities in the US. Marcy Darnovsky, Executive Director of the Center for Genetics and Society states: "The intentions are honorable. But the methods are extremely problematic when it comes to medical risks and the consequences for society."
The scientist believes that such experiments should only be used for medical purposes, otherwise we are just one small step away from human experimentation.
Other reasons for concern is the fact that the new technology changes every cell in the body of the child, with these changes then passing on to the next generation. This, along with many other unknowns, may lead to the very real possibility of the human species changing as a whole.
What dangers this may lead to scientists can only guess right now, while pessimists have an entire collection of science fiction movies and books which could provide them with an answer.