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Editorial: Creating babies with 3 sets of DNA crosses line

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DNA testing has come a long way, baby – since 2003 when the Human Genome Project was completed.

Today, it is routinely used to solve crimes, determine paternity, screen for genetic conditions or tell you where your great-great-great granddaddy came from.

But DNA science can present a conundrum.

In the case of a DNA blood test to screen for abnormalities in a fetus, a new study suggests a DNA blood test may be more accurate and less invasive than current screening methods like amniocentesis.

But an experimental fertilization technique that could lead to the creation of babies from the DNA of three individuals as a way of possibly producing healthier babies crosses an ethical line into a place the human race simply should not go.

The Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to allow the DNA “swapping technique” on women who have defective genes linked to inheritable diseases and other disorders. It’s been tested on animals.

Opponents asked the FDA at a public meeting last week to block human testing of the technique because of its unknown ethical, medical and societal impacts. Some genetic experts say it could take decades to determine if the babies turn out to be truly healthy. Critics also suggest the technique could lead to “designer babies,” where parents pick eye color or intelligence. FDA staffers acknowledged the “ethical and social policy issues related to genetic modification of eggs and embryos,” but said such issues were “outside the scope” of the meeting.

However, before the agency gives this experimental procedure the go-ahead, those issues should be worked out because, once it’s underway, there surely will be those who want to take DNA science just one step further and then maybe another step without really knowing what the long-term effects will be.

The first step should not be taken lightly – if at all.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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