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Designer genes come at a price

genetic engineering, clone, Dolly

“Blue.Yes blue is a good colour,” he says, “for the eyes. Yes. Especially if she’s going to have blond hair.”
“Are we having a girl?” she says.
“Well, I’d like a girl.”

Kenneth and Barbara are picking out a child from the latest range of designer genes. Across the road, Betty and Bob are gurgling over their new born baby boy. He looks just like uncle Burt – the poor mite – but he has all his parts and they all work and Betty and Bob are delighted.

Kenneth and Barbara have heard about genetic engineering and they’re planning to have a perfect child.

Much like the doggy in the window, they can pick and choose – the intelligence, the personality and the colour and shape of the external features.

The Human Genome Project makes this all possible. Our genes are the reason we turn out the way we do. They’re the instructions which make us human and they contain over 3000 million bits of information – which go a long way towards making each one of us unique.

If we zone in on the incredible power of genetic engineering it becomes possible to fine-tune certain genes for various functions and medical conditions. Sometimes a single gene can be accountable for diseases like cystic fibrosis, cancer, schizophrenia, anxiety, arthritis and deafness.
Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and even personality manifestations such as shyness can be put down to genes.

Genetic manipulation is nothing new. For centuries animals have been subjected to this scientific reproduction. In its most innocent form it’s called breeding. Owners seek out pedigrees to mate with their pedigrees, to ensure the offspring is thoroughbred. But over the long term all of this inbreeding weakens the strain and these A-Grade animals, become prone to disease.

Dr Wilmut of the Roslin Institute, has gone a step further. In 1997 he successfully regenerated a lamb from the cells of an adult sheep. The lamb, who some may know as Dolly, was an exact clone or replica of its mother. Traditional reproduction did not take place.

Dr Richard Seed, a Chicago physicist would like to extend this practice to the realm of human reproduction and plans to set up 10 clinics in America to provide babies for infertile couples. And this may well be a realistic option for some in the not too far distant future.

With technology like this, the parameters are limitless. For example, the human race can be programmed before birth to withstand conditions on the More…/2 moon, potential diseases can be eliminated before an organism assumes life and people can choose the eye and hair colour of their unborn children.

On the flip side, the safety of this practice has not been endorsed. Apart from the potential clinical dangers, the psychological and moral issues are profound and may have far reaching consequences.

Supposing Kenneth and Barbara do have the perfect child. Imagine the pressure placed on the infant from its earliest day. Parents will assume, that their designer offspring should learn quicker, develop faster and progress more rapidly.

At school the great expectations will continue and amplify. How can a genetically predetermined product enjoy a natural childhood? Its owners must surely have in mind a blue print for its performance

A child like this is not the result of intimate love, nor is it the product of nature. It is a paradigm for the advance of science – and there can be many models made exactly like it. But do we want doctors to create prototype people right down to the last designer detail?

While we may be left grasping at straws to support moral versus medical, we know, that we in the western world, the civilized world are neither ready, nor willing to sell out on our individuality.

It is the very essence which makes us strive for personal growth. It is our desire to compete and our inherent need to compensate our weaknesses while we reap the rewards of our strengths and maintain this eternal juggling act which makes us human. Would you change your label?

Ends

By Iza Goldwasser
Published: 2007-06-19
Author: Iza Goldwasser

About the author or the publisher
BA English with over 15 years' experience in marketing and communications. I have had exposure to a variety of industries and written on a vast number of topics. I adapt my style to suit the content and have an award for Enterprising Journalism. I love to write about advertising and the media, travel and cutting edge issues especially in pyschology eg. manifestation theories, trends in human behaviour and changes in the workplace.

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