The ‘designer baby’ debate has been blown wide open again on the US, after the filing of a patent that could allow a Mountain View firm to predict many of the traits of their future children. Critics have lashed out at 23andMe for “ethically and socially treacherous” behavior, in relation to the firm’s Family Traits Inheritor Calculator.
The calculator is said to be able to accurately predict whether or not a future child would be susceptible to a range of diseases or birth defects, though can as thee same time offer information on their weight, size, personality and eye color.
By extracting and examining DNA from the prospective parent saliva, the firm is technically able to predict enough of a future child’s looks and characteristics to assist fertility clinics in creating ‘designer babies’ – something 23andMe has vigorously denied any interest in.
“At the time 23andMe filed the patent, there was consideration that the technology could have potential applications for fertility clinics so language specific to the fertility treatment process was included in the patent,” read a recent blog post from the company.
“The company never pursued the concepts discussed in the patent beyond our Family Traits Inheritance Calculator, nor do we have any plans to do so.”
They went on to describe the service offered instead as “an enjoyable way to dip their [parents’] toes into genetics”.
Nevertheless, critics are unconvinced as to the real intentions of the company and continue to speak out against the patent.
“It would be highly irresponsible for 23andMe or anyone else to offer a product or service based on this patent,” Center for Genetics and Society director Marcy Darnovsky told the BBC.
“It amounts to shopping for designer donors in an effort to produce designer babies,”
“We believe the patent office made a serious mistake in allowing a patent that includes drop-down menus for which to choose a future child’s traits,”
“A project like this would also be ethically and socially treacherous.”