The other day, my wife and I saw a TV show on Transgenic advances (for those of you who don't know, transgenic refers to an organism whose genes have been altered to now contain genetic material from another species
). I knew this technology existed, but I had no idea how far it had come.
It's far passed the "let's make a better wheat-plant" stage. From the TV show alone, we saw examples of:
- Salmon that grow 4x faster and regardless of temperature
- Chickens who've been engineered to not have feathers
- Cows so big; so packed with muscle, you'd have to see them to believe it
How they're doing this is interesting, but for us layman it involves taking genetic material from one species; for the desired trait, and inserting it into the genome of another species' eff. So yea, that's interesting, then I saw something that was a tad bit disturbing.
Cows, boxed into these machines, standing in a row with each machine a myriad of red tubes leading in and out of the cow. The cow stands there - relatively content - with his blood being harvested. What are we farming? Human antibodies
. Yep, that's right; not "compatible cow antibodies"; human
. As the camera angle zoomed in on the cow's eyes, the narrator goes on to describe how; in order to GET the human antiviral production genes in place, how 4 sets of different transgenic phases had to be done (as I recall, human-> mice, mice-> hamster, hamster-?????, ?????-> Bovine). My god, this cow's part human
! What's more, once that cow begets offspring, they too will be part human, perpetuating their genetic signature.
The ramifications of such technology are, well, both astounding and disturbing and this technology is going forward full-speed. But getting back to the cow...[INDENT] ... I was a bit disturbed; kind of the that feeling you get in your gut when you see an accident victim with one foot pointing one way and the other facing the other way; something about it was a bit disturbing. I'm generally in favor of such sciences; and am indeed of this one as well! But a "yellow-flag" of warning ran up the pole in my head
[/INDENT]This isn't science fiction any more. It's real - cut and paste species. I'm excited and disturbed. The ethical implications of this could - both justifiably and simultaneously - be described as, too dangerous to allow
and too potentially-beneficial to ignore
. What do you think?
- Transgenic Definitions: Answers.com
- Basics of Transgenics: For you Wiki Fans
, Overview of the Process
, Article from the Science Creative Quarterly
- The Show: Note, I haven't tried this, I refuse to install pug-ins I don't want (link here