Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence



Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-62)

RUTH DEECH, BARONESS KENNEDY OF THE SHAWS AND SUZI LEATHER

WEDNESDAY 24 APRIL 2002

  60.  Have you ever put a figure on it?
  (Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws) At the moment, we are wanting to put very solid figures on the kind of public meeting we think we would now like to move to. We are working on getting clear figures for that so that I can be even more determined in my efforts to get money.
  (Suzi Leather) Last year, our total income was just under 3 million and we have a staff of 40.

Chairman

  61.  What is the next headline going to be? Is it going to be pre-implementation diagnosis that excites The Sun and The Mirror and the others? What do you foresee coming up?
  (Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws) We are about to have published two books, one by Francis Fukiyama, who wrote The End of History, and he has written a book which is a shock, horror book about the post human era, about the creation of a super human being who will live 150 years, who will be able to defy disease and have implantations of genes which will keep him going for ever and the fears that will come with all of that. We will have quite a lot of frightening headlines around the debate that he will be having with an eminent American scientist who takes the other course which says that the genie is already out of the bottle. There will be human cloning. This is where it is all going to end up. This is what civilisation is about and we will just have to deal with it as it comes. That debate is about to take place in the next few months and I suspect it will lead to lots of headlines and we will all have to deal with the backwash that will come from it.

  62.  And your experience, Ruth?
  (Ruth Deech) I think it will be to do with cloning. Dolly has arthritis and possibly worse. There may be bad stories about the dangers of cloning and that may be coupled with a botched attempt, but I hope no attempt, by the totally unregulated Signor Antinori of Italy to clone. In a way, that may highlight the advantages of having bodies like the HGC and the HFEA. We are in for a round of bad stories about cloning.
  (Suzi Leather) Ruth is right. There will be wild claims of cloning, almost certainly untrue, but they will underline the importance that we have already in this country made it against the law and punishable with a long prison sentence. It is helpful to be able to tell journalists that when they ask us questions.
  (Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws) The Human Genetics Commission is about to present a report to government on the issues of privacy. One of the issues which I think this Committee may want to look at is whether we should not be at an early stage looking at the need for criminal legislation for abuse of DNA. By that, I mean people obtaining it without proper consent, authorisation or by deception. It may be that we will have to urge government to legislate against people doing that. It is something that we can anticipate is a fear that people have and it is something we might see.

  Chairman: Thank you very much indeed for coming and sharing your experiences and your prognostications with us. We are very concerned about genetics and the effects of regulation and the public consciousness and so on. We share that with you. I am sure the Committee would like me to thank you for the enthusiasm you have shown about the very difficult arena which involves everything right across the board from the new science to how we legislate and so on, and indeed, perhaps most importantly, taking the public along with us. It is quite clear that many of the problems we have been looking at you have identified too and I am sure, with teams like you, science is in good hands and we give you all our support in your efforts. Hopefully, we will see you again in the future. Thank you very much for coming along today.


 


 
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