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Genome handling: “Science is on the verge of triggering a catastrophe”

Publié le : 20 December 2013

 In an interview with the weekly newspaper, Le Point, and following the publication of his work, "Où va l’humanité?" (1), Professor Israël Nisand(2) denounces genome handling. According to Professor I. Nisand, "Science is allowing us to interfere with the human genome and therefore with our own evolution. […] For 150 000 years, mankind has been constantly evolving", but this stage in the evolutionary process was slow and "subject to chance". Thanks to scientific advances, a creature can, for the first time in living history, "recreate itself," he explained.      

The Professor of Gynaecology and Obstetrics stresses that, at the present time, "We are all equal in terms of genome. We have roughly the same appearance and the same physiology as our 80 billion predecessors". However, nowadays, "some billionaires, who are even richer than countries, are in pursuit of a Promethean dream" – the desire to become immortal. Now, "if tomorrow science serves certain individuals instead of species", humanity will be divided into two species with a different evolution; "Science is on the brink of triggering this catastrophe," warns I. Nisand. 
Nevertheless, the Obstetrician/Gynaecologist does not want to "restrict" research to minimise this catastrophe. 
Instead, he calls for "vigilance", because "nothing can prepare us for uncontrollable genome DIY". In fact, every scientific advance has its spin-offs. Professor I. Nisand quotes the example of ultrasound scans: without challenging "the incredible progress made to date in being able to detect particularly serious deformities", he denounces the fact that it is used "mostly for gender-selection abortions,  when the foetus is not male". He warns that "if we do not control genome handling, the consequences will be worse than those experienced for ultrasound scans".         
He advises that "civil society as a whole should decide whether a discovery should be used or placed on the back burner" and calls for the rapid implementation of "international governance" in order to make decisions "jointly, at international level, about the future of human genome research". 
(1) "Où va l"humanité?", Israël Nisand in conjunction with Jean-François Mattéi    
(2) Obstetrician/Gynaecologist at CHU Strasbourg (University Hospital Centre) and Professor at the Faculty of Medicine

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