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About Genetic Selection


Genetic selection procedures are done either on fetuses, through prenatal screening, or on embryos that are outside a woman’s body, through Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD).

PGD tests embryos for the presence of genetic sequences linked to a variety of conditions and characteristics. A cell is extracted from an embryo at its eight-cell stage and analyzed. Embryos with the selected characteristics can be implanted in a woman's uterus to develop into a child. The procedure does not appear to affect embryos’ or fetuses’ subsequent development, though more follow-up studies of children born after PGD are needed.


Frequently Asked Questions

Arguments Pro & Con

PGD was developed to allow couples at risk of passing on a serious genetic disease to have children not affected by it. Since its introduction in 1990, it has been most widely used to prevent the birth of children with conditions such as Down's syndrome, Tay-Sachs disease, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell, Huntington's chorea, and Cooley's anemia.

However, PGD is increasingly being used for other reasons. These include social sex selection, creating “savior siblings” who can provide bone marrow or other transplant tissues to sick older siblings, and selecting against embryos with genes correlated with late-onset and non-fatal conditions. Some clinics have even offered the technique for purely cosmetic traits including eye color, hair color, and skin complexion.

A newer variation of PGD, called Preimplantation Genetic Haplotyping, allows for many more genes to be tested, and for greater accuracy.

Many disability rights advocates, in particular, have been critical of PGD and prenatal screening. They point out that the definition of "disease" is to some extent subjective. Most support women’s right to decide whether or not to have a child at a given time, but are critical of basing this decision on the traits of the particular embryo or fetus.



Breaking from our Eugenic Pastby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesNovember 13th, 2014As the victims of North Carolina's eugenics program finally receive compensation, we should not celebrate "the new eugenics" as some have argued, but learn carefully from this history.
Could Genomics Revive The Eugenics Movement?by Meredith SalisburyForbesNovember 8th, 2014There was a time when people in America were sterilized, sometimes unwittingly, by activists aiming to create a healthier, “better” population. As the progress of genomics accelerates, we need to remember the lessons of the past.
North Carolina Compensates Victims of Eugenic Sterilization[With CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Lily LouThe GuilfordianNovember 7th, 2014The drive behind these sterilizations was the eugenics movement: the pseudoscience of improving a society’s gene pool through reducing populations of people with negative traits.
Geneticists Tap Human Knockoutsby Ewen CallawayNature NewsOctober 29th, 2014Sequenced genomes reveal mutations that disable single genes and can point to new drugs.
Genetic Testing for Alzheimer’s — Without Revealing the Resultsby Shirley S. WangThe Wall Street JournalOctober 13th, 2014Doctors are devising new ways to shield patients from information about their odds for developing inherited disease as genetic testing becomes more common.
Eugenics: The Academy's Complicityby Nathaniel Adam Tobias ColemanTimes Higher EducationOctober 9th, 2014The University of London will face up to its complicity in constructing unjust racial hierarchy, 110 years to the day that the university legitimised Francis Galton's research on eugenics.
Reproducing Raceby Dov FoxThe Huffington PostOctober 6th, 2014It is troubling for donor services to accentuate race in ways that invite parents to exclude wholesale from their consideration all donors of a particular race.
The Troubling Persistence of Eugenicist Thought in Modern America by Michael Brendan DoughertyThe WeekSeptember 30th, 2014We no longer talk of "unfit" children, but we'll still destroy them in the name of quality of life.
A New Generation of GMOsby Josie GarthwaiteEnsiaSeptember 18th, 2014Is synthetic biology on its way to our farms, markets and tables?
Shame and Scandal in the 23andMe Familyby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesSeptember 17th, 2014In response to its problems with the FDA and news about family traumas triggered by its tests' "close relatives" option, 23andMe is hiring new executives, including a Chief Privacy Officer.
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