Sobriety amid celebration

In a week of landmark events for genomics, a survey of the landscape.

Peg Brickley(pegbrickley@hotmail.com)
Apr 13, 2003

When the International Human Genome Consortium announced a completed draft of the human sequence in June 2000, the stock market boomed, the World Trade Center stood and the ethics of genomic exploration were a matter of heady debate. Today, hopes for rapid gem extraction from genome mining are taking hits from war, terrorism and bankruptcy, and ethical quagmires are no longer hypothetical.

Genomic exploration was to have been the first item on the agenda of UNESCO-sponsored International Congress of Bioethics slated for May in Tehran, Iran. But the meeting has been postponed due to "unfortunate conditions" in the region, to be rescheduled once normalcy is restored.

Just a few years ago, bioethicists' biggest worry was the "genome rush," a race for quick drug profits that might turn genomics into a new brand of eugenics, with a thin sheath of science veiling the exploitation of vulnerable people. Icelanders were the first...

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