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Media Coverage of Genetically Modified Embryos

Posted by Jesse Reynolds on May 13th, 2008

Here is a roundup of some of the media coverage from the weekend's revelation that scientists have created a genetically modified human embryo:

The Times (UK) revealed the development on Sunday. Dr. David King of Human Genetics Alert said, “This is the first step on the road that will lead to the nightmare of designer babies and a new eugenics. The HFEA is right to say that the creation and legalisation of GM embryos raises ‘large ethical and public interest issues’ but neglects to mention that these have not been debated at all.”

The Associated Press carried a piece, "Genetically modified human embryo stirs criticism," late yesterday, which has been picked up by at least 150 news websites, quoting CGS's Marcy Darnovsky.

Today, the New York Times ran an article with a similar title, "Engineering by Scientists on Embryo Stirs Criticism," also quoting Darnovsky: "It’s an important ethical boundary that scientists have been observing. These scientists, on their own, decided to step over that boundary with no public discussion."

The Press Association (UK) distributed a video clip of Human Genetics Alert's David King (caution: clip is followed by a noisy advertisement):

Much of this was kicked off from a press release by Human Genetics Alert [PDF]. For more information, see HGA's brief [PDF]. CGS will be publishing more commentary on the first genetically modified human embryo soon.

Previously on Biopolitical Times:

Robert Winston on the UK's fertility bill

Posted by Jesse Reynolds on May 13th, 2008

Lord Winston
Robert Winston

Assisted reproduction pioneer Lord Robert Winston had some surprising words about the UK's controversial bill to overhaul its oversight of the reproduction industry and stem cell research. Two of the most controversial planks, for which there will be  conscience, are those regarding cytoplasmic animal-human hybrid embryos for stem cell research, and the selection of "savior siblings" through preimplantation genetic diagnosis. The Telegraph reported:

As for the Bill itself, [Winston] has an unexpectedly maverick approach. On human-animal hybrids, one of the most controversial issues, he says: "I'm really worried about saying this to you, because I know I shall get stick from my colleagues.

"But if the hybrid embryo thing doesn't go through, it in no way shakes the body of science. It's not [about] embryos that can survive, or viable monsters. Nothing like that.

"It's a nice adjunct; a useful extra. But if we don't have that resource, it won't fundamentally alter the science of stem cell biology."

Lord Winston has grave reservations about another disputed clause. "I'm very unhappy about 'saviour siblings'."

His concern is that children selected to provide treatment for a sick brother or sister may be put under undue pressure to give bone marrow or organs.

So it wouldn't break his heart if the measure was voted down? "Absolutely not," he says. 

Previously on Biopolitical Times:

Nature on California's "Cronyism"

Posted by Jesse Reynolds on May 9th, 2008

In a recent issue, the editors of Nature - among the most gung-ho supporters of stem cell research - caution against the "cronyism" and "inherent problems" at the California stem cell research agency. The editorial says:

Several episodes over the past year have highlighted an inherent problem with the CIRM's structure: the board that distributes its funding is stacked with representatives from the universities that benefit most from those disbursements. The CIRM has enacted rules to try to limit the conflicts of interest posed by this arrangement. They don't go far enough. At one meeting in January, for instance, CIRM board members from institutions that had applied for a facilities grant voted to deny one....

As the patient advocates grow into their roles as full partners, and with help from well-intentioned lawmakers such as Kuehl, the CIRM must be coaxed into serving its most important constituency — the taxpayers of California. The roles themselves are not unusual in the world of governance, but here the stakes are exceptionally high.

In the News this Week

Posted by Jesse Reynolds on May 9th, 2008

A bill to expand federally-funded embryonic stem cell research may be introduced again to Congress, despite the fact that it its likely to be vetoed again. Its Democratic cosponsor is clear that this would be solely for politcical purposes. However, the bill may include new measures for stem cell research oversight. Monya Baker at Nature's The Niche blog has more.

The Los Angeles Times investigated the exaggerations of genetic matches used by prosecutors. The same authors had recently examined the growing use of DNA databases in California.

A grant for stem cell research to a California-based company by the New Jersey state government is raising questions, particularly amid debt and budget cuts.

You can always keep up-to-date at the CGS newswire, and via our RSS feeds

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