• Question: Do you think there is any form of eugenics at play in the world and if so, how does it affect phenotypes?

    Asked by redrawdave to Tomas, Richard, Reka, Paul, Omar, Oliver, Kevin, Judith, Hannah, Gemma, Emma, David, Bobby, Anthony on 3 Jan 2019.
    • Photo: Gemma Chandratillake

      Gemma Chandratillake answered on 3 Jan 2019:


      I don’t think there is an organised programme aimed at “improving” the genetic constitution of the human race on any large scale in place, at least I really hope not! There are certainly some genetic-based interventions that occur that affect which babies get born which affect the make-up of families and/or populations:
      – people select babies by gender (genetic testing is the earliest way of telling gender in pregnancy)
      – there are screening programmes for certain genetic conditions like Down Syndrome in many countries and this does affect how many individuals are both with those conditions (e.g. Iceland has very few babies born with Down Syndrome)
      – there is availability of prenatal testing (with potential to terminate pregnancies) for foetus’ at risk for genetic disorders
      – there is the ability to select which embryos to implant via IVF so as to avoid implanting embryos carrying genetic conditions that affect the family (pre-implantation genetic diagnosis)
      I wouldn’t classify these as eugenics per se though some would; where would you draw the line?

    • Photo: Judith Sleeman

      Judith Sleeman answered on 4 Jan 2019:


      As Gemma says, it does depend exactly how you choose to define ‘eugenics’. There have been many strategies for eugenics over the centuries: forced sterilization of people thought unsuitable to have children was not uncommon in the 20th century. Our increased knowledge of genetics certainly provides more opportunity to intervene and I hope our societies can use this knowledge responsibly.

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