Genesis of Eden

Genesis Home

Chinese Deal Sparks Eugenics Protests
New Scientist 16 th Nov 1996 p4

A French genetics company has won a deal that will let it examine the DNA of the entire population of China if it wants, New Scientist magazine reported yesterday. Genset, which specialises in collecting and sequencing human DNA, says it will appoint about 20 researchers to collect and analyse the information. But the magazine said geneticists were worried that China could use the information to enforce its 1995 Maternal and Infantile Health Care Law, denounced by opponents as a "eugenics" law to stop "inferior" births. Many researchers are threatening to boycott the next International Congress of Genetics in Beijing in 1998 unless the law is repealed.

New Scientist said that although the French scientists were interested in new therapies, not eugenics, it was worried that the Chinese Government might try to use the knowledge to identify genetically "unfit couples and foetuses."

"If you have a commerical company coming to a major agreement wit a government committed to widespread eugenic abuse it's something many scientist would be concerned about" said British geneticists meeting last week in London. Genset should secure specific promises that the information gained and released through the deal will not be used against inidividuals "The company should say some bits of this law are wrong and evil" said David Sjherrat president of the Genetical Society.

Cultural Reaction NS 24 Oct 98 3

PARENTS the world over want perfect babies-though not everyone will agree what "perfect' means. A survey of deaf people (see p 18) has revealed a few who would prefer deaf children. Perhaps they see deafness as part of their identity, or maybe they fear rejection by children who can hear. Whatever their reasons, they would get short shrift in China. According to a recent survey (also p 18), Chinese geneticists favour prenatal tests to back what appear to be eugenic practices. The finding will horrify most of their Westem colleagues, and increase the pressure on them to boycott meetings in China. But the survey Also underscores the need for constructive dialogue. And that can only take place if geneticists in the West understand the cultural forces at work. Xin Mao, the survey's author, makes no apologies for the findings. In China, individuals are more willing than in most Western countries to make sacrifices for the general good. China also has a burgeoning population. It's not hard to see why its geneticists might seek to cultivate the view that having an "unhealthy" child is "letting the side down". Who knows whether ordinary Chinese agree with the nation's geneticists? But even if they do, it doesn't change the argument. Eugenics is abhorrent, whether it is directed by force or through active "cultural" compliance. It recalls horrific memories of attempts to create a master race and is the antithesis of human rights as it is known in the Western world.

Return to Genesis of Eden?