by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted August 27, 2007 in DNA in General, Genetic Engineering
Having trouble persuading your child to eat broccoli or spinach? You may have only yourself to blame.
According to a study published this month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, neophobia – or the fear of new foods – is mostly in the genes.
“Children could actually blame their mothers for this,” said Dr. Jane Wardle, director of the Health Behavior Unit at University College London, one of the study’s authors.
“Parents should not feel like they’re doing something wrong if they keep trying but their child is not overjoyed to be eating Brussels sprouts,” said Marlene Schwartz, deputy director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University.
@#! So are parents supposed to feel guilty for passing on “faulty” genes or give in and blame their genes instead, absolving our conscious selves of all guilt? We need to get our heads clear on this concept because the more we learn about our genetic make-up, the more worries we’ll have to face when it comes to the genes we’ve unintentionally doled out to our offspring. Some families are dealing with this dilemma already.
Last year, when the UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) approved preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to screen embryos for BRCA1 and BRCA2, genes for breast and ovarian cancers, Karin Cohn and her family were featured. Karin carries the BRCA1 gene and both her sister and mother have had breast cancer. Karin’s mother Pat Gilbor:
I feel guilty. Rationally I know I shouldn’t, but emotionally I do
Karin herself also worries about the potential of having given her daughter Sophie the BRCA1 gene and supports the use of PGD:
If I had had the option, I would have done it. And I would continue to do it until I got a clear embryo.
It would mean I wouldn’t have to worry about my child in the future.
In many ways, I think this is a reflection of current parenting culture. We are so keen to control every aspect of our children’s lives and give them every advantage we can that it naturally extends to their health.
Just think about it for a second. It makes no sense to blame ourselves for the genes we’ve given our children because we can’t and did not select the genes that were distributed to them when they were conceived (with the exception of a limited list of genes using PGD).
Parents become responsible for choosing, or failing to choose, the right traits for their children.
And yet, even if and when genetic engineering for “perfect” children becomes widely available, we’ll still be unable to control the way our children’s genes interact with the environment in which they grow up.
Being a good parent means knowing what’s important and what can be improved within reason. When it comes to genetic material, I accept that my child isn’t perfect. After all, I may be responsible for giving my son the genes of genius but there’s no guarantee he got just as good from his daddy’s side of the family!
NB: For the record, broccoli is my five-year-old’s favorite vegetable.
Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD): A Discussion...
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Eye on DNA Headlines for 28 August 2007 and a Poll on DNA Storage...
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American Journal of Medical Genetics Special Issue on Children and Genetics...
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