Designer baby eugenics and how to stop it
A teach-in and campaign planning day organised by: Stop Designer Babies (SDB), Alliance for Humane Biotechnology (USA), Gen-ethisches Netzwerk (Germany, GeneEthics (Australia)
10am – 5pm March 4, 2023 Somers Town Living Centre, Ossulton St London NW1 and online. FREE, Register here
Come along to discuss the urgent need for action to stop the harsh realities of modern eugenics. Designer babies are not science-fiction any more – the first genetically modified children were announced in 2018. Despite global outrage, the British government is now trying to overturn the legal ban on human genetic modification (HGM) this year. HGM would create genetic changes with unpredictable long term effects which would be passed on to all future generations, affecting their human rights and intergenerational equity.
In this time of increasing right-wing extremism, allowing HGM would be utterly irresponsible. This event is timed to coincide with a summit at the nearby Francis Crick Centre on March 6, where scientific and industry groups are meeting to push the agenda of HGM forward. As Vandana Shiva said at our event last year, ‘There is an attempt to make people forget eugenics …. that’s why your work is so important.’
Because eugenics targets disabled, black, Jewish and working class people and other groups and traits perceived as ‘undesirable’, this event will be a chance to share perspectives from different social movements. We must face the threat that eugenics poses to human rights and defend basic concepts of social diversity, equality and inclusion of everyone.
- History of eugenics 1900 to 2023, including Somers Town connection
- Introduction to the science and politics of HGM
- Perspectives from black/anti-racist, disability rights, working class, feminist, parents and human rights movements
- International perspectives
- UK and international campaign planning
Schedule of the day
10 – 10.15 Welcome – David King (Stop Designer Babies)
10.15 – 11.15 Introduction to eugenics, David King (Stop Designer Babies)
11.15 – 11.30 Break
11.30 – 12.30 Introduction to Designer Babies, Daniel Papillon (Stop Designer Babies)
12.30 – 1.30 Lunch (note that we will not be providing lunch, only light refreshment)
1.30 – 2.45 PANEL: Ros Kane (NEWPIN), Heide Crowter and Lynn Murray (Don’t Screen Us Out), Theo Simon (Seize the Day), Dr Michael Antoniou (gene therapist and anti-GM food campaigner), Ayesha Usmani (Stop Designer Babies)
3.00 – 4.00 PANEL: Jerome Santolini (Sciences Citoyennes, France), Gabriele Pichlhofer (Biorespect Switzerland) and other members of the International Coalition to Stop Designer Babies to be confirmed.
4.00 – 5 .00 Brainstorm on campaigning
During the lunchtime break, participants are encouraged to visit the Somers Town People’s Museum (100m away), where there will be a mini-exhibition on the Somers Town connection with eugenics.
Venue is accessible: there is a ramp and disabled toilet, event is happening on the ground floor.
To register, click here.
If you support the work we are doing, please consider making a donation to Stop Designer Babies.
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
SDB is recruiting a campaigner
Stop Designer Babies is a small London-based pro-choice campaign group dedicated to preventing the legalisation of genetic modification of human beings (the creation of GM babies), which raises many social justice concerns.
We are looking for a freelance part time campaigner (8 hrs/week) to work with us from October 2022 until March 2023. There are possibilities for increase in the number of hours and extension of the role. Main tasks will be event organising and publicity, campaign outreach, social media and administration.
Please contact email@example.com for the job description. Application deadline is 5pm October 2nd 2022.
Mini-conference: Why Your Movement Should Oppose Designer Babies
How do social movements’ politics connect to the campaign against designer babies?
March 9th 5pm GMT online // FREE registration here
With Vandana Shiva, Sarah Boon, Donna Dickenson, Tina Stevens, Claire Robinson, Pete Shanks, Bob Phelps and others.
Organised by Stop Designer Babies, Gen-ethisches Netzwerk (Germany), Alliance for Humane Biotechnology (USA), GeneEthics (Australia).
International scientists’ groups are pushing for the creation of genetically modified (GM) designer babies, and in 2023 there will probably be an attempt to legalise them in the UK. Although it’s clear that allowing GM babies would have harmful effects on human rights and basic human equality, some social movements have not yet taken up this issue. Our panel of speakers from feminist, anti-racist, disability rights, working class, and green movements will explain why all these movements must oppose designer babies.
This will be followed by a panel of international speakers that will explain why over 70 countries already ban GM babies. Only a global ban on the creation of cloned or GM designer babies will ensure that minorities and global society in general is protected from human genetic engineering.
//Schedule of the mini-conference//
Section 1: Basics
Section 2: social movements against HHGE/eugenics
- Feminist perspective: Donna Dickenson
- Decolonial perspective: Vandana Shiva (Navdanya)
- Quick Q&A
- Disability rights perspective: Sarah Boon (autisticallysarah.com)
- Environmental perspective: Claire Robinson (GMWatch)
- Q&A and debate + break
Section 3: International perspective
- Critique of summit process: Pete Shanks (Centre for Genetics and Society)
- Germany: Taleo Stüwe (Gen-ethisches Netzwerk )
- France: Jérôme Santolini (Sciences citoyennes)
- Australia: Bob Phelps (GeneEthics )
- Q&A and debate
For more information, or to be kept informed about SDB events, contact info at stopdesignerbabies.org.
FREE registration here
To make a donation to SDB, click here
BIOGRAPHIES OF SPEAKERS:
Tina Stevens: Tina Stevens is Director of Alliance for Humane Biotechnology, a non-profit dedicated to raising public awareness about the social implications of new developments in biotechnology. An historian of US history with a specialty in the history of bioethics, she earned her PhD from the University of California at Berkeley. She also holds a masters degree in Jurisprudence and Social Policy from University of California’s Berkeley Law, where she specialized in Law, Medicine, and Society. She is Lecturer Emerita at San Francisco State University and is the author of, Bioethics in America: Origins and Cultural Politics (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000) and co-author with biologist Stuart A. Newman of, Biotech Juggernaut: Hope, Hype, and Hidden Agendas of Entrepreneurial BioScience (Routledge, 2019.)
Donna Dickenson: Professor Donna Dickenson is Emeritus Professor of Medical Ethics and Humanities at the University of London and also holds an honorary position at the University of Bristol School of Medicine. Previously she taught at Imperial College School of Medicine, London, working extensively with clinicians in both research and teaching. For many years she served on the Ethics Committee of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, helping to draw up guidelines for practice in controversial areas. On the international level, she was Principal Investigator of four European Commission projects in such areas as evidence-based medicine and property in human tissue. She is the author of 25 books and over a hundred academic articles, with her most recent books including Property in the Body (second edition, Cambridge University Press, 2017) and Me Medicine vs. We Medicine: Recaliming Biotechnology for the Common Good (Columbia University Press, 2013). In 2006 she became the first woman to win the high-profile International Spinoza Lens Award for her contribution to public debate on ethics.
Sarah Boon: Sarah is an autistic self-advocate who campaigns for autistic acceptance and seeks to address the inequalities autistic people experience in society. Sarah is speaking today about why the research project Spectrum 10K is unpopular among the autistic community and how it fails to consider the wants and needs of the autistic community.
Pete Shanks: Pete Shanks was born in the British Empire, educated in England, and has lived in California since the 1970s. He has been actively involved in Human Genetic Engineering issues for over 20 years [and frequently writes for Biopolitical Times, published by the Center for Genetics and Society]
Taleo Stüwe: Taleo Stüwe works for the Gen-ethisches Netzwerk (gen-ethical network), a group of scientists and activists providing the public with a critical picture of biotechnology and reproductive technology, aimed at balancing science’s self-representation through academia, industry and polity.
And in case the chair wants more information on me:
Taleo engages particularly with reproductive technologies. They are currently writing their PhD about developments in prenatal testing and their influence on gynaecological practice at the University of Cologne.
Jérôme Santolini: Senior Scientist at I2BC, head of the Oxidative Stress and Detoxification Lab. Member of the NGO “Sciences citoyennes” (citizen sciences), mostly concerned by the questions of scientific information, research policies, biotechnologies and technoscientific controversies
Bob Phelps: Bob Phelps founded GeneEthics in 1988 to campaign, advocate and educate for GM-free futures. The Australian Government awarded him a Federation Medal in 2004 for services to the Australian Community in his role as GeneEthics Executive Director.
WEBINAR: GM ‘Designer Babies’: Breakthrough or Nightmare?
Please help us to publicise this event by sharing with friends and colleagues
Dec 8th 7pm GMT online Organised by Stop Designer Babies
FREE registration here
In 2018, the Chinese scientists created the world’s first genetically modified (GM) babies. Despite the worldwide outrage, next March the science establishment are meeting in London to push the ‘genome editing’ agenda forward.
Some scientists claim that genetic modification is needed to prevent genetic diseases, but is that really true? In a world still riven with disability, race and class oppression and other examples of eugenics, will allowing people to engineer their babies’ genes make social inequalities even worse? Will it turn children into just another designed and optimised commodity?
Join us at our free online event to discuss these issues and what we can do about them.
Sigrid Graumann, feminist bioethicist and member of the German Ethics Council will make the case against GM babies.
Angus Clarke, clinical geneticist from Cardiff University will explain why genetic modification is unnecessary.
PLUS contributions from:
Stuart Newman, developmental and evolutionary biologist with long-time interest in the uses and misuses of developmental biology in human health and reproduction will contribute on the subject of the inherent biological uncertainties of embryo gene modification.
Marcy Darnovsky, executive Director at the Center for Genetics and Society will tell us about what’s left out and what’s distorted in the “official” debate about heritable genome editing.
Chair: Dave King, SDB
Register here. For more information, or to be kept informed about SDB events, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We are planning another event in February on the links between climate, GM food and GM babies.
To make a donation to SDB, click here
EMBARGO: 1pm BST July 12, 2021
We need a global ban on human genetic engineering, not ‘governance’
Stop Designer Babies (1) today criticised the WHO reports on ‘global governance’ of human genome editing. The reports expend many words to say nothing concrete, and fail to recommend the obvious solution to the risks of unregulated creation of genetically modified (GM) designer babies, as He Jiankui did in 2018.
Dr David King (2), a member of the group said: “This is an abdication of the WHO’s responsibility. It is obvious that the only practical solution to the risks of rogue scientists and profit-minded IVF clinics starting a new free market eugenics is a comprehensive global ban treaty. That is why over 70 countries have already effectively banned it. The mealy-mouthed call for ‘governance’ is a technocratic strategy, which we have already seen from other scientific establishment bodies, for eventual normalisation of human genetic engineering.”
Notes for editors
- Stop Designer Babies (www.stopdesignerbabies.org) is a new UK-based grassroots campaigning group dedicated to a global ban on human genetic engineering. We are a pro-choice group. More information see www.stopdesignerbabies.org/about.
- Dr David King is a former molecular biologist and long-term campaigner against human genetic engineering.
For immediate release Thursday November 14 2019
Activists mount first street protest against designer babies
Today, activists from the new campaigning group Stop Designer Babies (SDB; 1) are mounting the first street protest against the drive by some scientists to create genetically modified (GM) babies. SDB is demonstrating outside a meeting (2) of a group of scientists who are planning how to conduct GM baby experiments without asking the public whether we should go in that direction.
Since other well-established techniques exist for avoiding the birth of children with genetic diseases (3), there is no medical need for human genetic engineering (4). It is because of the risk of a free market form of eugenics (5) that governments around the world banned the creation of cloned and GM babies over 20 years ago. At a time of massive inequality and rising right-wing authoritarianism, human genetic engineering is a weapon of mass social destruction, and the move to legalise it is the ultimate in scientific irresponsibility.
The intention of this self-appointed international commission to push ahead with the creation on GM babies is extremely clear. After an initial decision to wait until there was a ‘broad social consensus’, within 18 months the US National Academy of Sciences decided that creating GM babies was ethically acceptable, and a year later the UK’s Nuffield Council on Bioethics said that even creating genetically ‘enhanced’ designer babies was acceptable. The Commission’s remit (6) shows that it is open to considering such genetic ‘enhancements’, despite the strong ethical consensus that has existed for many years against allowing such designer babies. Even when there was worldwide outrage at the birth of GM babies in China in 2018, the Commission refused to advocate a moratorium.
These moves are typical of an official bioethics system that is dominated by techno-enthusiastic scientists and that always decides in favour of every new genetic technology, no matter what the consequences. The Commission’s members include several open supporters of human genetic engineering, but none who have publicly opposed it, such as the many signatories to an international statement that will shortly be published (7). The speakers at its meetings have also been dominated by those eager to move ahead toward designer babies. This technocratic process of engineering and disregarding public opinion and imposition of every new genetic technology is exactly what led to the campaign against GM foods.
David King, a member of Stop Designer Babies, said: “Given the determination of a small group of scientists to press ahead with human genetic engineering, regardless of consequences, it is vital that ordinary people stand up and say no to a future of eugenics and turning children into just another consumer item.”
For more information about the protest, contact David King on (+44)20 7502 7516/(+44)7854 256040.
Notes for editors
- Stop Designer Babies is a group of grassroots activists, scientists and other opponents of human genetic engineering. It is a secular group that supports abortion rights. For more details see stopdesignerbabies.org
- The meeting of the International Commission on Clinical Use of Human Germline Genome Editing is taking place at the Sainsbury wing of The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, on November 14, and at the Royal Society on November 15.
- Parents who know that they are at risk of a having child with a genetic disease have several options for avoiding that. The low-tech traditional method is adoption. Secondly, since because of the way genetics works, genetic diseases result from the combination of both parents’ genes, parents can choose to use either egg or sperm cells from someone else to create the baby. As with adoption, this will mean that one parent at least is not the genetic parent of the child. Many people place much importance on upon being their child’s genetic parent. However, that is a social benefit, not a medical benefit to anyone. It is highly questionable whether it is ethical to subject the child to considerable risks from novel invasive technologies for the sake of such a benefit. Thirdly, parents may start a pregnancy and have prenatal genetic testing and abort an affected foetus. Finally, there is the option of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), which involves producing embryos through IVF and testing a batch of 10 embryos to find one which does not have the mutation.This spectrum of methods can prevent the birth of children with genetic diseases, except in a minuscule number of hypothetical cases, as all reports on the science and ethics of this issue agree. Thus, creating GM babies, with all the risks to both the child and society that it entails, can never be ethical. We fail to understand why scientists who know this perfectly well still insist in media interviews that genetic engineering is the only solution.
- Stop Designer Babies is not opposed to somatic gene therapy; we use the term ‘human genetic engineering’ in the same way that people speak of plant and animal genetic engineering, to indicate the genetic engineering of the germline (e.g. by engineering embryos) in a way that passes the changes on to all descendants of the person whose genome has been engineered.
- Advocates of human engineering sometimes claim that the idea of free market eugenics is a ‘scare story’. However, there are already aspects of such a system operating today, such as in the US egg donation market, where Ivy League students are paid 10 times more for their eggs than ordinary women. In the past two weeks, a US company, Genomic Prediction, has announced that it will be selling genetic tests on embryos that allow parents to avoid children with low IQ, whilst UK health minister, Matt Hancock, has announced the governments ambition to sequence the genomes of all British babies at birth, starting with a pilot of 20,000.
- The Commission’s remit can be found at: https://nas.edu/gene-editing/international-commission/statement-of-task/index.htm.
- For more details of the statement, agreed at a meeting of bioethicists, scientists and activists in Geneva earlier this year, please contact the Centre for Genetics and Society: email@example.com.
For immediate release, March 14, 2019
Call for moratorium on GM babies is part of the problem, not part of the solution
New grassroots activist group Stop Designer Babies (1) today criticised the call of a group of scientists for a moratorium on the creation of GM babies, arguing that it is really part of a technocratic procedure for manipulating public opinion, in order to eventually permit them. Although a moratorium is better than the current trend towards legalisation, scientists’ self-regulation, lacking legal teeth, would be flouted by those scientists determined to go ahead, as has already been shown.
Since there is no medical need for this technology, a permanent global legal ban is therefore the only proper solution, but the Nature article actually opposes such a ban. It even fails to call for a ban on genetic ‘enhancement’, only stating that this would not be acceptable ‘at this time’. It also advocates the extremely dangerous eugenic ‘solution’ of widespread preconception screening, and ignores the many public statements of opposition to such a new eugenics by disabled people.
Stop Designer Babies warned that scientists would face a social backlash similar to that over GM foods, if it continued to push for these medically entirely unnecessary technologies.
David King, a member of the Stop Designer Babies group said, “Do not be fooled by another group of scientists and ethicists claiming to be ‘more responsible’ than rogue scientist He Jiankui. All they are trying to do is to bring the approval of this new technology back within the normal technocratic process for engineering public acceptance. There is absolutely no medical need for creating GM babies. But human genetic engineering would be a Weapon of Mass Social Destruction, especially in an era of rising right-wing authoritarianism. Only a global treaty banning cloned and genetically modified babies can halt the threat of a new eugenics.”
For more information, call +44 208 809 4513/+44 7854 256040.
Notes for editors
1. Stop Designer Babies is an international network of concerned citizens and activists seeking to prevent the legalisation and normalisation of designer babies, created following the news of the birth of the first GM babies in China. An organisation that supports the right of women to terminate their pregnancies, we seek an international ban on human germline genetic engineering and cloning.