The FDA is currently debating whether or not to allow research into test-tube babies from more than two parents. Some scientists have been postulating that using the genetics from more than one pair of humans could decrease the risk of certain genetic diseases in children. Scientists think they know how to do it, but the FDA has not yet approved the research for humans. There are various reasons why—the most salient being that this technology could open the door for designer babies.
Designer babies are children whose physical traits have been selected by parents and tailored in a test tube (think Brave New World). You want a female with blue eyes, blonde hair, and a high IQ? Some day, we might be able to do that. For now, the proposed research would replace a particular woman’s faulty mitochondrial DNA with the healthy mitochondrial DNA of another woman while retaining the core nuclear DNA from the original mother. If the original mother has a genetic problem in her mitochondrial DNA, this solution could potentially ensure that her child is unaffected by it.
Up until this point, genetic modification for humans has largely been illegal. We have obviously been tampering with plants and animals, but we’ve kept human beings out of it up until this point. Mostly because we have no idea what unintended consequences we might be unleashing if we start tweaking with human genetics. As an article in Fox News said:
. . . The genetic changes created using the technique would be passed down to future generations, potentially spreading unintended health consequences throughout the population.
And isn’t that the argument against GMO foods? But I digress.
For me one of the most ironic points of this debate is its implications for abortion. Why shouldn’t mothers have designer babies? Why shouldn’t they choose exactly what their unborn child’s genetics will be? Isn’t that child “just a part of their bodies”? If a woman wants to get breast augmentation or a tummy tuck or a tattoo, we don’t keep her from it, do we? Why should it matter if she makes it so the lump of cells inside of her has blue eyed genetics rather than brown?
Oh, because her choice about what you’re saying is just her own body might have an impact on future human genetics? Why? Oh, I see. Because that lump of cells is actually a human being with its own unique genetics and potential impact on the human gene pool. In other words, it’s not her body. Just so we’re clear.