China Scientist Planning to Move Forward With Sex-Selection Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 20, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 20, 2006

Beijing, China ( — A Chinese scientist says he’s planning to move ahead with research that would allow parents to be able to choose the sex of their baby before conception takes place. In a nation where sex-selection abortions have produced a horrendous gender imbalance, observers are concerned this will exacerbate the problem.

Lu Kehuan, president of Guangxi Animal Breeding Research Institute, promises the research "would only be used for treating genetic diseases."

Lu told the Xinhua news agency that his company has conducted a similar gender selection test on a buffalo and it proved successful.

"[I]t won’t be too difficult to do the human research," Lu explained.

"I want to do gender selection on humans in the second half of this year. The techniques have been used in other countries and not much negative impact has been reported," Lu told Xinhua.

Because of the gender imbalance problems with sex-selection abortions, they have been banned in China. In addition, health workers who reveal the sex of an unborn child to parents without a legitimate medical reason for doing so risk jail.

However, the ban does not apply to gender selection for medical purposes.

Lu’s company produced the birth of two cloned buffalo in February, who were hailed as the first cloned buffalo born through genetic gender selection.

Scientists sorted the X and Y chromosomes in the sperm of the male buffalo and removed the X chromosomes making it so the female buffalo would have only female offspring.

Yang Jinbo, research fellow with Guangxi Buffalo Research Institute, told Xinhua that the same concepts apply with human sperm.

However, Gao Chongming, professor of Life Sciences Department of Beijing University, said he was concerned by the idea.

"If we change nature too far from what it should be, nature will retaliate," he said.

Wang Yanguang, research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, also worried about the research and told Xinhua, "We do not yet know the harmful effects of this."

Others are concerned that China’s male-female ratio is already out of balance and, in a culture that prefers male babies, parents could use the technology to have only sons and those decisions would lead to further problems.

Lu says it would be 10 years before such research is widely used.