Doctor, parents, or future child: Who has rights to an embryo’s genome?

Geneticist Razib Khan’s decision to obtain the whole genome sequence of his partner’s fetus in utero shows us that genomics is no longer a fantasy. While it would be a mistake to use this one example to condemn the entire practice of whole genome sequencing (WGS) prior to birth, I will suggest here why we should look before we leap regarding prenatal WGS.

If you lean towards the permissive with respect to genomics, this sequencing event may not be a big deal. Genomic sequencing technology is now fast and cheap. Long-held paradigms such as non-directiveness and respecting children’s future autonomy may no longer apply when sequence information is becoming almost mundane and is striding into new healthcare domains. Presumptions of bodily integrity and reproductive autonomy in pregnancy may further diminish concerns – after all, we have very few justifiable thresholds for interfering in decision-making during pregnancy and the harm to the future child that may occur here would be unlikely to reach them.

I think a bit differently to this and advocate a (future) child-centred approach; one which rejects technological imperatives to obtain whole sequences before birth just because we can. WGS will soon be cheaper than testing for one or a few genes and this is certainly a welcome development. But while high throughput methods might be chosen, they should not necessarily dictate the information that is provided. Genomics will bring a significant change in the volume of information received and we won’t know for some time what it all means. Genomics also won’t ever be able to tell us everything about our health. While Khan may have been able to analyse his son’s own genome, this skill will not be within everyone’s reach. And while genome sequencing is cheap, interpretation and data storage are not.

Read full, original article: Whose genome is it anyway? Ethics and whole genome sequencing before birth

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
Nigeriacotton

Video: We can ‘finally’ grow GMOs—Nigerian farmer explains why developing countries need biotech crops

Nigerian farmer Patience Koku discusses the GMO crop trials she is conducting on her farm, and why growers can "rise ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
breastfeeding bed x facebook x

Infographic: We know breastfeeding helps children. Now we know it helps mothers too

When a woman becomes pregnant, her risk of type 2 diabetes increases for the rest of her life, perhaps because ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...
gmo corn field x

Do GMO Bt (insect-resistant) crops pose a threat to human health or the environment?

Bt is a bacterium found organically in the soil. It is extremely effective in repelling or killing target insects but ...
favicon

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend