[intro]Would you rather have a perfect child from birth? In the future it may be as easy as approaching a healthcare counter. So, frankly, would you choose to have a genetically modified baby, a designer baby?[/intro]
If you would, one genetic testing company in California is patented by the United States Patents Office to help parents that want to pre-determine their prospective baby’s traits. The company, 23andMe, suggests on its official website that determining whether your baby will be blond or a brunette with blue, green or brown eyes is as easy as filling a form. As the prospective parent, you do the bidding.
To Have, or Not to Have a Genetically Designed Baby?
[pullquote position=”left”]Geneticists can create a perfect baby[/pullquote] Interestingly, 23andMe’s spokeswoman Catherine Afarian once spoke to Fox News and rather than put an end to the flurry of questions and (dystopian or utopian views depending on what side of the ‘crib’ you stand on) what her company’s activities’ could mean in less than a decade, she raised more questions, than provided answers.
Originally, their vision entailed featuring their new formula in fertility clinics but now “have no plans of doing so”.
The above is only one example of a genetics company that’s offering a hand (and genomics) in modifying genes to make perfect babies by routing out possible genetic defects.
On one hand, the benefits are inspirational. Parents that want to deviate from genetic diseases and disorders such as the many types of cancers, diabetes, or cardiovascular conditions will have a chance at beating these killers —a definite win for humanity in this case, and potentially wiping out these diseases and ‘genetic defects’ for good.
One of the offers many competing genetic-testing companies are potentially fronting is a parent’s ability to control how their child will behave. No parent wants a difficult child. Neither is any parent happy to have their child frequent in and out of medical sessions to treat “preventable” conditions.
Prospective parents are encouraged to choose and select from an available catalog, select genes from the companies’ gene banks that deviate from their own, or closely match them.
By choosing sperms and eggs pre-sourced and engineered by the companies, and from as many as three different people, geneticists can in theory create a perfect baby. While “perfect” is a strong term and subjective, data already provided by various scientists from the US and UK suggests a new age as envisioned in Brave New World by Aldous Huxley where a child’s IQ, looks and ancestry will not necessarily depend on the family lineage. Parents can even try their chances for twins at a whim.
Dystopian and opposing views, however, point to a rather tragic future reeking of a vastly different, autocratic, uncontrollable, unintended, and incredible human society roaming the face of Earth at the remorseful expense of their “primitive” yet “real” human beings. One dominated by replacement species.
Already, the race is on among genetic testing companies on both sides of the Atlantic to pioneer the gene-screening technology on humans, probably because demand for these services has all the right signs to make tidy returns on investment.
With advancement a new challenge presents itself: Regulation. Much as some of the companies deny attempts at using their DNA-altering tools for designer baby-making, it is naive to take this view to the bank. The purview of the opposing camp points to a rather obvious, real-life, human concern and the phobia-driven concept of “survival for the fittest”.
The higher a person’s IQ, the better they look or move, funny or clever, tall or short, muscular or slender, the less disease-inflicted they are, the better their chances of “making it” in life. Such as ‘survival of the fittest’.
As much as one would wish on the powers that be, that only the intended section of society (that really needs the service) seeks and receives the modifications, the services may be more posh that correctional —pretty much like what’s become of caesarian section births, with the WHO now advising parents that are “too posh to push” to stay off it.
Pundits in all camps are split on the way forward. Further concerns include the aristocratic effects that may emanate from the availing of such services. UK analysts suggest that a standard “genetic MoT” test could cost around $3000 if and when the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority approves it.
In addition, the ever so highly emotive question on abortion may come up again. This, seeing that embryos found to carry “undesirable” genetic traits (as minute as having a “bad” hair color) at a post-implantation stage of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) may lead to termination of pregnancy.
Further, as much as physical traits can be chosen from a catalog of the over 240 gene traits available at the likes of 23andMe, the same can’t be rightly said about internal traits such as abstract talents, abilities and skills, left or right-handedness, etc. Which are what probably matters most in a person — the personality.
If we keep researching we are going to become adept at manipulation of our genetic code, consequently, (more or less) redesigning the human species. The consequent replacement species may pose a daunting challenge if caution and regulated use of the technology to tinker the human genome for better health, looks, etc. is thrown to the wind.
But, in all likelihood, parents will more likely want to give their child all the available advantages, leading to competition for manufacturing engineered babies that are “superior” to the previously born.