Red lines in genetic research

Friday, May 8, 2015

Attention: there are unacceptable transgressions in scientific research and particularly in genomics, as agreed unanimously at UNESCO and the United Nations in 1997 and 1998 in the "Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights' ( in order,  precisely, to avoid that, thanks to genetic engineering, could be carried out the dream of Hitler and Mengele to make a “designed” human being. They tried with Mendelian genetics techniques, and failed.

In 1993 with the support, since the first moment, of the Human Genome Organization (HUGO), I started at UNESCO the process of drafting the Declaration with a Commission chaired by the lawyer Nöelle Lenoir. In its eleventh article establishes: "Practices that are contrary to human dignity, such as reproductive cloning of human beings shall not be permitted. States and competent international organizations are invited to cooperate in identifying such practices and in taking, at national or international level, the necessary measures to ensure that the principles set out in this Declaration are respected ".

In the Internuniversitary Chair in Law and the Human Genome at the Universities of Deusto and the Basque Country, Professor Carlos María Romeo Casabona has continued to study and reflecting exemplary all the difficulties related to genomics research  (see " Journal of  Law and Human Genome”, an excellent international reference to this respect). Moreover, the Council of Bioethics
may, at any time, review new initiatives and contributions on a so essential issue... but is forbidden "cloning for reproductive purposes" for the reasons stated above.

It is therefore unacceptable that some Chinese scientists announce - "El País", 24 and 25 April 2015- that led out experiments of genetic modification on human embryos (see scientists-genetically-modify-human-Embryos-1.17378),  which raises serious ethical problems that are causing responses, by the scientific community that should be very strong (see "Do not edit the human germ line" and "A prudent path forward for genomic engineering and germline gene modification"

A long time ago, in the book "Gen-Ethics", edited in collaboration with Prof. Carlos Alonso Bedate, the difference that exists between what is feasible and what is acceptable both in genetics and other fields of research was very clear. This does not mean that there is forbidden knowledge but that there are prohibited practices, applications of knowledge that are incompatible with human dignity, conceptual and existential basis of being,  that the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (12.07.2000) rightly places it  in first place. 

Again, China cannot be the great dark and non-transparent country.  I hope that a reaction takes place of such extent on behalf of the international scientific community that the present trends are rapidly redressed, because, I repeat, this subject does not admit exceptions.

The United Nations should be respected. Neoliberals have substituted them by the plutocratic groups (G-7, G-8, G-9 ... G20). It is urgent now to provide the UN with moral and effective authority in order to help clarifying matters as essential as this one.