Axel Kahn (born 1944) is a French scientist and geneticist. He is the brother of the journalist Jean-François Kahn. He was a member of the French National Consultative Ethics Committee from 1992 to 2004 and worked in gene therapy. He first entered the INSERM with a specialization in biochemistry. He was named in 2002 as a counsellor for biosciences and biotechnologies matters by the European Commission. Head of French laboratories specialized in biomedical sciences between years 1984 and 2007, he has been elected as the President of the Paris Descartes University in December 2007, where he was the sole candidate.
Kahn is known in France for his appearances in the media where he attempts to explain genetics and ethics to the public. He uses the title of professor, while he is not. As a civil servant, he was the head of the committee in charge of genetically modified crops for Europe. According to the journalist Hervé Kempf, he was paid by the company Rhône-Poulenc after having supported GMC culture in France. Rhône-Poulenc was then the company pushing hardest for GM crops to be grown in France.
Views on science
Kahn, the editor of French biomedical journal (Médecine/Sciences; 2005 Impact Factor: 0.541), said in 1999 that "80 to 90 percent of what is published [in scientific journals] is of little real interest" and most journals are consulted infrequently.
Kahn has said that Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins's view of the "selfish gene" and genetic determinism is incorrect, saying: "Personally, I am strongly against the theory of ultra-genetic determinism and the Dawkins theory of 'the egoistic gene'."
Views/positions on medical procedures
Kahn has said that embryos which are kept frozen after in vitro fertilization procedures and will be destroyed anyway should be used for scientific advances, because whether or not the embryo has the potential to be human, at that point its only fate is to be used for research or destruction and its only chance to contribute to a "human project" is to help with scientific research. This view (Kahn refers to himself as a humanist) has been viewed by some religious theorists as disrespectful of the embryos.
In 1995, Kahn was a notable opponent of intracytoplasmic sperm injection, which he saw as an experimental treatment not to be used by those with infertility, which was not serious enough to justify the risks he perceived the procedure as having.
Kahn has also spoken out against family members carrying children for other family members who are infertile. In speaking out against the case of a 62-year-old Frenchwoman who gave birth after being implanted in the United States with the sperm of her brother, Kahn protested what he called "social incest" and continued, "The most important thing is that doctors were involved in this process, and they did it because they were paid handsomely."
Kahn has said: "But, from the ethical point of view, I'm totally opposed -for some reasons- to the legitimisation of the cloning-based reproduction of human beings. This authorisation would entitle some individuals to create human beings in their own image… This kind of subjection -even though it is only corporal- is intolerable. What could give somebody the right to choose the sex, the eyes' or hair's colour, the chin's shape or any other characteristic of a human being? As a consequence, I see no reason for legitimating reproductive cloning. As regards therapeutic cloning, a problem can be pointed out: before making a supposedly therapeutic cloning, a human-cloning technique must be found."
He has also said that therapeutic cloning simply will not work.
Kahn has said that there can be no lasting state of Israel in its current location - "Demography, law and the uneasy conscience of the West preclude it." He has called for the boycott of Israeli products.
- Transgenic Plants in Agriculture
- Copies conformes – Le clonage en question (1998)
- Et l’homme dans tout ça ? (And man in all of this?), by Axel Kahn (with Fabrice Papillon, 2000), pub. Nil, Paris, 2001
- Raisonnable et humain? (2004)
- Le Secret de la salamandre (with Fabrice Papillon, 2005)
- L'avenir n'est pas écrit ("Future is Not Yet Written")
- L'Homme, le Bien, le Mal. Une morale sans transcendance, by Axel Kahn and Christian Godin, Stock edition, Paris, 2008, ISBN 2-234-05975-5.
- Lauréat of the Académie Nationale de Médecine
- Medal of Francophony of the Académie Française
- Silver medal of the CNRS
- Doctorat Honoris Causa from the Université Catholique de Louvain, the University of Liège, the Université de Montréal, the Université Laval and the Université de Sherbrooke.
- Droit de réponse du professeur Axel Kahn contre des assertions mensongères et diffamatoires du Journal "Les Echos" — le site de l'Institut Cochin
- Journalistes professionels de l'environnement ont écrits des livres, ouvrages, oeuvres, publications, éditions, films, etc
- Nature via mailing list, 1999 APR 29. Consulted on August 11, 2007.
- Carpe Diem Communication, PROFESSOR AXEL KAHN: " FUTURE IS NOT WRITTEN"…. Consulted on August 11, 2007.
- Leading French Geneticist and Bioethicist Threatens to Resign if his Government Doesn't "take immediate and significant steps to boost French research".. Consulted on August 11, 2007.
- Nature, WHO's bioethics code likely to stir debate. Consulted on August 11, 2007.
- European Commission, Stem Cells: Therapies for the Future?. Consulted on August 11, 2007.
- British Medical Journal, France debates ethics of sperm injection techniques. Consulted on August 11, 2007.
- Label France, Feature : Biotechnologies : do they endanger Mankind?. Consulted on August 11, 2007.
- Le Monde, Getting on, getting by. Consulted on August 11, 2007.