An open letter to participants at the Asilomar Symposium on Science, Ethics and Society
Pacific Grove, California
February 16, 2000
It is fitting that a symposium on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Asilomar Conference consider not just the legacy of that event, but also the controversies generated by ongoing developments in genetic technology.
Our primary concern is with human "germline" genetic engineering —the manipulation of the genes passed to our children.
An increasing number of noted scientists, academics, and others are saying that human germline engineering is an acceptable use of the new genetic technologies. Some of their recent statements are shown below.
Many of these advocates have dropped any pretense that their interest in germline engineering is limited to "therapeutic" applications. They now speak enthusiastically of using germline engineering to "enhance" the human species.
This is alarming, and demands a response. Human germline engineering is a threshold technology which, if developed and used, would put into play a wholly unprecedented set of social, psychological and political forces. It would change forever...