Designer Babies? What the Fudge??

Logo used from about 1963 until 2007 (January ...
Logo used from about 1963 until 2007 (January 2008 issue) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In this electronic day and age where newspapers and magazines are becoming passée I am still reading Readers Digest. I guess all those years of reading them at my Gran’s house and in waiting rooms around the globe has made the old RD a sort of comfy blanket. Comfortable as an old shoe and as reliable as Old Faithful.

It was in this month’s Readers Digest that I read about designer babies. I saw the article in the September issue (I know, it’s August. But that is the fun of monthly magazines, you always get them early) and it was discussing the advantages of using genetic screening to ‘design’ your foetus.

Quite frankly, I was horrified. Have we come this far? I know that what they are talking about is still illegal. But in a world where celebrities and wanna be celebrities have designer dogs, teeth, tits and whatever else you can think of, do we really want babies by design?

The very idea makes me think of Adolph Hitler‘s maniacal quest for breeding the perfect Aryan race.  I know that the folks who are suggesting that genetics  can help you ‘build’ the perfect child aren’t in Adolph’s class. But dammit, it’s scary!

I am not knowledgeable enough to argue against the idea. My understanding of science and biology doesn’t go much past the high school curriculum level. A  high school level that was attained back in the 70’s yet. So if you’re looking for an intelligent debate on the cons of the issue, I suggest you read something by Stephen Hawking, that is, if he even knows about it yet.

English: NASA StarChild image of Stephen Hawking.
English: NASA StarChild image of Stephen Hawking. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No my argument against the genetic building of babies is entirely from the parental point of view. And come to think of it, from the child’s as well. Amazingly I can still remember most, if not all, of my childhood. I know it was a long time ago, but I have been blessed (or cursed) with an excellent memory.

Can you imagine getting into an argument with your ‘specially’ crafted offspring and having them shout back at you, full of indignity, “I didn’t ask to be made this way!”

Or how about…

“Well you designed me! If I’m doing something wrong, it must be your fault!”

My mind is reeling from the very idea of all those issues that genetic enhancing will bring up. I remember yelling at my parents, years ago, the age old complaint from children across the world, “I didn’t ask to be born, you know!” Or the distant cousin of that statement, “I  didn’t ask for you to be my parents!”

But disregarding the above scenario altogether, just how is it that scientist’s or gene enhancer’s think that we know what the perfect mix of genes are?

We could get it completely and utterly wrong. Think about it. People right now are and have been raising children who believe that they are special. That they are entitled to everything because of that ‘specialness.’ And just look how the youth of today are turning out. Thankfully, so far at any rate, there are more ‘adjusted’ kids out there who realize that no matter how ‘special’ you are, you still have to work for a living.

But this gene enhancement or splicing or mojo, whatever you want to call it, is a recipe for disaster. What if experts tell us that we need children who can empathize with everyone and can also be sympathetic to their fellow man. The same child can have his aggression gene altered to keep his or her temper levels down. They can be ‘enhanced’ to allow them to be faithful, loyal, trusting, et al.

I am sure that the child who has those genes introduced into its body would grow up to be a gentle, caring, sharing mild mannered wuss. The world could be populated (for a time, at least until the enhancers realize what a boob they’ve made of humanity) literally by the meek. I think the end of mankind might be escalated a bit by a world full of those folks.

I am not saying that the entire idea is bad. I’m sure that it could be used to help stop deformities, disease, and other horrible things that we all pray our babies will not be born with. I am saying that we should be very careful in this, so far, illegal area of science and birth.

Let’s take a minute to think about what we are doing here. Do you really want to be the new Adolph Hitler or worse?

According to Bullock, Hitler was an opportunis...
According to Bullock, Hitler was an opportunistic adventurer devoid of principles, beliefs or scruples. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ll Have the McTest-Tube Burger With Cheese…

Hamburger on the hoof.

So, they are working on a test-tube hamburger are they? Well that’s what CNN say’s anyway. I had a quick look at their article and found out that a couple of scientists are both ‘racing’ to develop their own brand of ‘man-made’ meat.

Scientist Gabor Forgacs from the University of Missouri (otherwise known as the ‘Show Me’ state, it kind of figures) actually made a bit of the man-made meat and ate it in 2011. Since it didn’t kill him or turn him into some sort of genetic superhero (well not that we know of, superheroes are supposed to be secretive, it’s part of their law or something), he didn’t even have to reach for the antacids after he’d finished.

I’m not doubting the veracity of CNN’s news flash, but am I the only one that finds it a little bit funny that Forgacs originates from Hungary?

All kidding aside, Forgacs is so convinced that this is the way forward to feeding the worlds hungary (sorry) that he has a business already set up and running. Modern Meadows has already attracted investors and has funding from the US Agricultural Department.

Forgacs has a little competition in the test-tube meat race from the Dutch. A country not well known for its humane treatment of their meat on the hoof, so to speak. Mark Post and other researchers from the University of Maastricht are promising a very public launch of their man-made beef patty this year.

Both teams have stated that this new source of meat will not catch on with the public very quickly. I’m not surprised, does any one else look at this and not immediately think of Soylent Green??

Again kidding aside, both teams have said that in the area of retail, this will be more of a novelty. Like Kobe beef, the Japanese beef raised on beer that costs between 125 and 350 dollars per kilogram. So I don’t think you’ll be taking the kiddies down to the local Mcdonalds, Burger King or Wendy’s for a few test-tube burgers and french fries unless you’ve recently won the lottery or are a direct relative of J Paul Getty.

Research from Oxford University shows that traditional meat ‘farming’ uses up an awful lot of the planets resources. Water, grass, and so on. Not to mention the live meats issuance of methane that is destroying the atmosphere. All this sounds good, so good that the ‘man-made meat’ brigade like citing these stats as a reason for their pursuit of the new meat. Now all this makes manufactured meat sound like a great deal. But what about the existing livestock?

If and when these test tube treats become commonplace, what will happen to the animals? I’m pretty sure that retiring them all and putting them in petting zoos is not the answer. For one thing there just isn’t enough room for that many petting zoos. For another thing, won’t these living, breathing, pooping creatures still use up resources? And if they’re using resources they will also be blasting the ozone layer with their methane emissions.

So what are they planning on doing? Killing them? Send them to third world countries that can’t afford the man-made meat? Have they thought this whole thing through? Probably not. When you’re trying to make a better mouse trap you don’t think ahead to the day when all the mice have been eradicated and your money making labour saving device has been made redundant and therefore not a money maker any more.

No you just keep making that better mouse trap and damn the torpedoes. Just like the guys who are making the new improved and ‘bloodless’ beef patties. No animal will ever have to give his or her life for the greater good, ever again.

But folks, they are still going to eat, procreate and poop. So I don’t mind the idea of man-made produce, although I’m curious about how they’ll make bacon, the attempts so far don’t taste like the real thing at all; but guys? Leave out the “We’re doing this to save the world,” bit, okay?

By all means keep making your Soylent Green. I’m all for man creating a ‘better burger.’ But for all that is holy, make sure it’s really livestock. I’m too old to run down the street yelling, “Soylent Green is people!

Soylent Green Is PEOPLE!