Helen Wallace: Can we really justify this disturbing kind of research?

Share

In a world where 1 billion people are overweight, research on energy metabolism in mice will not address the social and economic issues behind the current epidemic of obesity. If the aim of this – or future – research is to create a new breed of "super humans", this is disturbing in itself. Although it is questionable whether the production of genetically modified humans will ever be technically achievable, any attempt would involve completely unjustifiable and dangerous experiments on mothers and their babies.

The concept of "enhancing" humans by genetic engineering is very far from reality, but increasingly medication, including new biomedicines, is focused on human enhancement rather than medical need. The issue of research priorities is a deeply ethical one, in a world where many diseases are neglected and people cannot get the medicines they need.

The creation of these so-called "mighty mice" is also hard to justify ethically, since there is no obvious need for the suffering inflicted on these animals. GM and cloning techniques are very inefficient, and many animals suffer unintended side effects including abortion, premature death and infertility, or are discarded as "failures".

More broadly, excitement about genetics is leading to a vast increase in the number of animals modified to have painful and distressing diseases. In Britain, more than a million genetically modified animals – the vast majority of them mice – were used in experiments in 2006. This is more than four times as many as were used in 1995, and such experiments are expected to increase rapidly in future years. Worldwide, dogs, cats, cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, monkeys, quail, chickens, fish and insects have all been genetically modified or cloned.

For many applications, such as agriculture and drug production, there are safer and more humane alternatives. Although most research on GM and cloned animals is argued to be justified on medical grounds, there is no public information on who is allowed to do what, where and why. The "mighty mice" experiment adds to this list the additional questionable aim of tinkering with energy metabolism and enhancing athletic performance.

GeneWatch believes that there is simply no justification for the genetic modification and cloning of animals for use as pets, in agriculture, as drug factories, for organ production or to undertake experiments with no obvious benefit beyond the curiosity of researchers. An independent inquiry into the use of GM and cloned animals in research is needed.

The writer is director of GeneWatch UK

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Tony Abbott: A man most Australian women would like to pat on the back...iron in hand

Caroline Garnar
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea performs in California  

Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting

Yomi Adegoke
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there