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Scientists Oppose "Gene Determining Theory"

Genes cannot determine a person's fate before he is born, for progress through life is also affected by the individual's intelligence and characteristics, as well as environmental and social factors, Chinese scientists said at the recently concluded Life Ethics and Bio-technology & Bio-security Symposium of UNESCO. They firmly opposed the "Gene Determining Theory".

With the official publication of the "working frame map" of the human genome and related "basic information", people are becoming more and more concerned with the ethical, legal and social problems regarding bio-technology and bio-security. However, the scientists warned, as research on genetics and human genome progress, the "Gene Determining Theory" or "Gene Essence Theory" may arise again.

Qiu Renzong, researcher and member of International Human Genome Ethnic Committee, said, "Humans are not just a bunch of genes. They have also sense and sensibility. They have their goals, values, beliefs and ideals, and are able to deal with human relations. One's growth and character formation is not merely determined by one's gene, but rather, the mutual functioning of genes and the natural and social environment. Both the 'Gene Determining Theory' and 'Gene Essence Theory' will lead to violation on human rights and interests."

"Glass is easily broken, but it will not be broken until it falls to ground," Qiu continued, adding that "a gene cannot be expressed until it and environment can interact." He disagreed with the opinion that someone who commits suicide must have carried a gene for suicide.

Because of recessive genes and gene mutation, the experts pointed out, no country could limit or prohibit the birth and existence of a handicapped child. The handicapped and the healthy should possess equal ethical and legal status and enjoy equal rights. Members of an ethnic group or different ethnic groups are all equal, with no division between good and bad.

Prof. Yang Huanming, head of Human Genetics Institute of Chinese Academy of Sciences, said, "The gene does not dominate humankind, and we should not be slaves of the gene."

(www.china.org.cn 04/06/2001)

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