chapter  8
14 Pages

Tying Prometheus Down

Human rights are frequently alluded to or mentioned explicitly in the existing instruments of international law on human genetic manipulation. International instruments relating to human rights provide ambiguous standards by which the human impact of biotechnological applications may be judged and are invoked to support the conflicting assumptions regarding genetic manipulations. The impact of genetic engineering on human rights was anticipated decades ago. In 1971, George Brand catalogued the possibilities, warning that “[i]t is easy, but dangerous, to dismiss all of these possibilities as science fiction.”1 The scientific complexity of the issues, the uncertainty of the technology, the limited number of governments with an interest in regulation, and the divergent philosophical assumptions of those governments contribute to the difficulty of adopting international norms in this area. The following broad-brush reflections on the human rights implications of human genetic manipulation illustrate that difficulty. They will show that most international human rights standards lend themselves to both sides of the argument. To facilitate analysis of the fifteen rights involved, I have grouped themsomewhat arbitrarily-into three broad categories.