Every week, it seems, we're told that this discovery or that technology might lead to "designer babies." I've heard this so many times that I've stopped taking it seriously. Genetic engineering always turns out to be more complicated than expected, and our latest technology always turns out to be less capable than advertised.
But now trait selection seems to be coming into view for real.
Two months ago, the Fertility Institutes, an assisted reproduction company headquartered in Los Angeles, began advertising the "pending availability" of genetic tests that would offer "a preselected choice of gender, eye color, hair color and complexion" in artificially conceived children. On Thursday, Gautam Naik of the Wall Street Journal reported that "half a dozen" potential clients had contacted the company to request such tests. As of today, the tests still aren't for sale. But several trends are converging to make aesthetic trait selection an impending business.
1. Embryo screening has become permanently entrenched. By now, tens of thousands of embryos have been screened for quality and potential...