"Build-a-Baby" DNA Database Patent Sounds Worryingly Like Gattaca

By Gerald Lynch on at

Do you remember Gattaca, the 1997 dystopian sci-fi film in which Ethan Hawke endures a lifetime of prejudice because his parents chose not to supercharge his genes at birth? It's an unsettling vision of an intolerant future, and one that could become a reality if 23andMe's "Build-a-Baby" DNA database patent ever becomes an actual thing.

The "Family Traits Inheritor Calculator" could be used to predict the chance of a child being born with an inherited disease, as well as picking up details of a person's future appearance, such height and weight, and maybe even personality.

And though 23andMe has since distanced itself from the potential use of the tool as a designer baby catalogue for fertility clinics, experts fear that this could be the technology's ultimate application.

"It would be highly irresponsible for 23andMe or anyone else to offer a product or service based on this patent," Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society, 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". [BBC[