Friday, April 18, 2008

Human Genetics Alert, http//www.hgalert.org

From Great Britain
PLEASE ACT NOW!

In just a few weeks British MPs will decide whether to allow scientists to start research on the ultimate step in genetic engineering: the creation of GM ‘designer’ human beings. In the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, now going through Parliament, the Government wants to allow the creation of GM human embryos, as the first step towards developing safe technology for creating GM babies. The creation of GM babies is not just a hypothetical scenario: leading British scientists, such as Robert Winston and Ian Wilmut, have already patented techniques for doing this, including patenting human semen and embryos.

If you care about the impact of GM on food and the environment it makes no sense to be quiet about this. The driving forces behind the push for GM humans are no different from those with GM food: money and scientists' desires for control over nature. And just as with GM food, the result will be loss of genetic diversity and the creation of new inequalities. Children will be designed to compete better but, of course, the rich will be able to purchase genetic advantages for their children over those of the rest of us. Human beings will become just another commodity, subject to market forces. There is no medical need for HGM (see http://www.hgalert.org/Stop_GM_Embryos.html for more details on this and other points), but once it is used for medical purposes, it will soon be used for cosmetic and 'enhancement' purposes, just as drugs and surgery are being used today.

Human beings are the only species left on the planet where there still exist formidable technical, ethical and legal barriers to genetic engineering – this is a battle that can be won, if we only raise our voices against the Government's plans. Most governments view the creation of GM babies in the same way as human cloning, and many have banned it – Britain would be the first to break this consensus.

Although this Bill prevents the creation of GM babies (with a major loophole) for the present, while the technology is still unsafe, the Government's own documents have admitted that GM babies are the ultimate goal. So this is the moment when there must be democratic debate, so that we don’t repeat the GM food experience, where most people only heard about it for the first time when Monsanto’s GM soya began to flood into supermarkets. And it is crucial that the debate is not framed as science vs religion - so those who support women’s rights, and have learned from the experience of GM food must have their voices heard. Even if you live outside the UK, your help is vital, since the British Government is sensitive to international pressure.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

The Bill is likely to be debated in the House of Commons in mid-May.

*Write to your MP letting them know your views on the Government’s plans. It is always better to use your own words, but if you do not wish to, here is a sample letter you can use http://www.hgalert.org/Sample_letter.html
Please send copies of your messages to david.king@hgalert.org

*Forward this message to others who may be concerned.

*Write to the Minister responsible for the legislation: Dawn Primarolo MP, Department of Health, Richmond House, 79 Whitehall London SW1A 2NS; Andrew.Earnshaw@dh.gsi.gov.uk

*Support Human Genetic Alert's (http://www.hgalert.org) campaign: let us know what you have done, and, if possible, send us a donation to help with the campaign.

*For more information on this issue, visit http://www.hgalert.org/Stop_GM_Embryos.html
and http://www.hgalert.org/topics/hge
or http://www.genetics-and-society.org/technologies/igm/index.html

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