To date, thirty children have been born through genetic modification, a process which is stated as a “last resort” for women that struggle with infertility. Half of the babies have been born within the last three years.
The project is an “experiment” performed by the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science of St. Barnabas, which operates four offices in New Jersey. The institute is touted as being “one of the nation’s leading fertility centers.” Dutch embryonist Jacques Cohen is in charge of the program.
The experiment involves women whose in vitro fertilization treatments have failed, along with those who wish to donate their eggs to struggling women. A fine needle is used to remove the cytoplasm from the healthy eggs, which is then inserted into the eggs of the infertile woman. The inserted genes then assist in conception once one of the eggs is fertilized.
Genetic fingerprint tests have so far been administered on two one-year-old infants, which showed that the babies had the DNA of three people — two women and one man. Therefore, it is possible that the children will have the physical traits of the donor woman, in addition to that of the husband and wife involved.
A number of scientists are concerned that this procedure tampers with the germline, which is defined as those specific cells that will be passed down from generation to generation and effect the traits of an individual. PBS states that “germline engineering (or ‘enhancement’) involves making ‘improvements’ in gametic (reproductive) cells.”
Additionally, there remain concerns that the fixation of genes will eventually create a market where parents will be offered the opportunity to “design” their babies before they are born. Genes could be altered to create taller children, or those with a higher intelligence, or to ensure that children are born with certain desirable physical traits, such as a particular hair and eye color. The website “Human’s Future” also explains, “You can select an embryo with the right chromosomes to produce the child of your chosen sex or have the embryo screened for a potential hereditary genetic disorders, or choose an embryo that is a genetic match for a sibling who already has a genetic disorder…”
“Farmers in many parts of the world now plant crops with genomes altered to make them resistant to pests or herbicides,” outlines Action Bio-Science. “Recent discoveries about the influence of genes on human traits such as susceptibility to disease, shyness, and athletic ability open the possibility of transferring these techniques to human beings.”
“One has tremendous sympathy for couples who suffer infertility problems,” John Smeaton, the national director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children told the Daily Mail. “But this seems to be a further illustration of the fact that the whole process of in vitro fertilisation as a means of conceiving babies leads to babies being regarded as objects on a production line.”
“It is a further and very worrying step down the wrong road for humanity,” he added.
“What kind of society are we working toward?” stated Marcy Darnovsky of the Center for Genetics and Society. “I think we want to get away from prejudices based on the way people look.”
Genetic engineering has been in existence since the mid-90’s.