A California company’s controversial new patent could help parents choose genetic traits for their children, and it’s concerning geneticists.
The company 23andMe, named after the 23 pairs of chromosomes every person has, offers DNA testing kits for potential parents. It tests for more than 240 genetic traits, helping predict the type of baby two people could create.
According to the company’s website, the tests are best used to help detect genetic diseases. But the technology could let parents choose genetic traits like hair and eye color, height, weight, sex and athleticism as well as multiple disease risks.
People using sperm and egg donations could potentially choose donors based on a desired combination of genetic traits, creating ‘designer babies.’
The tests are concerning some geneticists.
“They say we should be seeking to predetermine the traits of our children or better breed babies – that starts to get us into scary territory,” said Marcy Darnovsky of the Center for Genetics and Society.
The company said it has no plans to use the patent to allow parents to choose certain genetic traits. Genetic selection for non-medical traits is illegal in some countries including Canada and the United Kingdom, but it’s not currently outlawed in the United States.