Center for Genetics and Society
The Center for Genetics and Society (CGS) is a nonprofit information and public affairs organization, based in Berkeley, California, United States. It encourages responsible use and promotes the regulation of new human genetic and reproductive technologies. CGS provides analysis and educational materials in addition to organizing conferences, workshops, and briefings. It is particularly critical of proposals for full-term human cloning and germline genetic modification — uses of technology that it considers socially irresponsible.
CGS is a politically progressive and pro-choice organization. Its key areas of concern include: race and genetics, stem cell research, DNA forensics, preimplantation genetic diagnosis, commercial and cross-border surrogacy, race-based medicines, egg retrieval, designer babies, human cloning, sex selection, human applications of synthetic biology, genetic modification of humans, and the legacy of the US eugenics movement.
CGS is a project of Tides Center, a 501(c)3 organization funded by individual contributions and philanthropic foundations.
CGS was founded to advocate for social oversight and control of the new human biotechnologies. It grew out of a series of conversations and collaborations with key leaders in science, medicine, women's health, environmental justice, and human rights. This initial phase, conducted as a project of the Public Media Center in San Francisco, involved raising awareness of leaders in science, medicine, and civil society of these technologies’ potential impact, and the case for regulating them.
CGS formally began operations in October 2001 under the leadership of Richard A. Hayes, Ph.D. A primary focus has been to alert civil society constituencies to the challenges posed by the new human genetic technologies and assist them in building their capacity to engage in the discussions and debates about appropriate regulation. CGS organizes and presents at key events on biopolitical issues; engages in carefully selected policy interventions; and has a widespread media presence that includes high-profile publications, an active blog, and social media.
Selected Policy Interventions
- CGS has engaged with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.K. Department of Health and Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority over proposals for human trials of a procedure that would produce inheritable genetic modifications, so-called “three-person IVF.”
- CGS filed several amicus briefs in the lawsuit against Myriad Genetics concerning its breast-cancer gene patents. In June 2013, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that naturally occurring human genes cannot be patented.
- CGS supported the successful 2006 bill SB 1260, which ensures that women in California who provide eggs for private research are accorded all established federal and state protections for human research subjects, and limits reimbursement to their direct expenses. It helped defeat the 2013 bill AB 926, which would have removed these provisions.
- CGS played a lead role in holding California’s $3 billion stem cell research agency accountable to the state’s legislature and public. It submitted invited testimony to the "Little Hoover" Commission on California State Government Organization and Economy in 2008 and to the Institute of Medicine Committee in 2012, focusing on the conflicts of interest built in to the agency’s governing board.
- CGS was involved in the early stages of the 2000-2005 United Nations effort to propose an international treaty prohibiting human reproductive cloning.
Selected Events and Conferences
- CGS continues to organize the web-based interview series Talking Biopolitics
- CGS co-organized Future Past: Disability, Eugenics, and Brave New Worlds, 2013, San Francisco, California
- CGS co-organized Eugenics in California: A Legacy of the Past?, 2012, Berkeley, California
- CGS organized The Tarrytown Meetings, 2010-2012, Tarrytown, New York
- CGS co-organized Gender and Justice in the Gene Age, 2004, New York, New York
- CGS co-organized The Next Four Years, the Biotech Agenda, and the Human Future, 2004, New York, New York
- CGS co-organized Within and Beyond the Limits to Human Nature, 2003, Berlin, Germany
- Building a New Biopolitics: The Story of The Tarrytown Meetings
- Playing the Gene Card? A Report on Race and Human Biotechnology
- Responsible Federal Oversight of the New Human Biotechnologies: Opportunities for the New Administration
- Geneticizing Disease: Implications for Racial Health Disparities, co-published with the Center for American Progress
- Is there an emerging international consensus on the proper uses of the new human genetic technologies?
- The California Stem Cell Program at One Year: A Progress Report
- Stem Cells and Public Policy, published by The Century Foundation