'Science is on the verge of triggering a catastrophe'

A French physician and professor of gynaecology warns that uncontrolled manipulation of the human genome verges on creating two separate human species.

In an interview with the weekly French newspaper, Le Point, and following the publication of his book,  va l'humanité?, Dr. Israël Nisand of the University of Strasbourg in France denounced the artificial manipulation of the human genome. According to Professor 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. "Science is on the verge of triggering a catastrophe," he said.
     
The professor of gynecology 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, he added, "some billionaires, who are even richer than countries, are in pursuit of a Promethean dream" – the desire to become immortal.” Now, continued Nisand, "if tomorrow science serves certain individuals instead of a species," humanity will be thus divided into two species with different evolutionary paths. "Science is on the brink of triggering this catastrophe," warned Nisand.
 
 
Nevertheless, Nisand does not want to "restrict" genome research that might diminish the catastrophe. He is on staff at the Hospital Centre of the University of Strasbourg and professor of medicine.
 
Instead, he calls for "vigilance," because "nothing can prepare us for an uncontrollable Do-It-Yourself genome." Nisand argues that every scientific advance has spin-offs.  Noting the example of ultrasound scans, and without challenging "the incredible progress made to date in being able to detect particularly serious deformities," Nisand denounced that the technology is used "mostly for gender-selection abortions,  when the fetus is not male." He warned that "if we do not control genome manipulation, the consequences will be worse than those experienced for ultrasound scans."
         
Nisand advised 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" so that decisions can be made "jointly, at international level, about the future of human genome research." 

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