Trying to change life forms, wherever and whenever possible, will have consequences. Human knowledge, especially the portion that encompasses science & technology has been alleviating toil and disease from collective human lives/existence for a while now. Confident of such achievements, science & technology now want to go where no man has gone before, to steal a favorite saying from the 1960s sci-fi TV series ‘Star Trek.’ Currently, advances in the life sciences are facilitating the serious manipulation of life forms at their very bases, i.e., at the level of genes.
A gene is the molecular unit of heredity of a living organism. And gene splicing is now the rage within industrial societies (OECD); It is a technique in which fragments of DNA (often from different individuals or species) are combined to form recombinant DNA. (Recombinant DNA molecules are DNA molecules formed by laboratory methods of genetic recombination (such as molecular cloning) to bring together genetic material from multiple sources, creating sequences that would not otherwise be found in biological organisms, i.e., in nature.) Whether the desire is to quench the thirst for pure knowledge/enlightenment or cure diseases or maximize profit; the whole endeavor of genetic engineering will ultimately affect the future of all life forms. Such endeavors will propel Homo Sapiens from being a mere creature to that of a creator on its own rights.
Nonetheless, one thing must be very clear; life is not something we humans consciously concocted out of mere stuff in our various laboratories. Even our science concedes to that. Yet, we don’t seem to mind our obsession to manipulate all that we have not created ourselves! May be caution is not the forte of Homo Sapiens, as can be witnessed from its futile flirtation with ‘God’s Fire’ (nuclear energy) or from the stupid way it is polluting the unique biosphere of this blue planet, which sustains all lives, including that of its own.
The disappearance of thousands of species from the face of the earth, mostly as a result of our doings, has not tempered our fixation to further tamper with things/life forms. Nevertheless, there will be drastic unintended consequences. Even though there are more ominous signs hitting us smack on the face and are even threatening the very survival of our species, collectively but sadly, we don’t seem to care much. Let us take the case of ‘terminator seeds.’ What is a terminator seed? ‘GURT (genetic use restriction technology), colloquially known as terminator technology or suicide seeds, is the name given to proposed methods for restricting the use of genetically modified plants by causing second generation seeds to be sterile. The technology was developed under a cooperative research and development agreement between the Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture and Delta and Pine Land company in the 1990s, but it is not yet commercially available.’ In our pedestrian/simple language, what the above really means is, these are kind of ‘use and throw seeds’ because they become sterile second time around!’ There you have it!
Scientists from the North have tried to preserve the remaining global biodiversity in vitro (in glass tubes) mostly in their metropolis. To be sure, all these genomes (genome is the entirety of an organism’s hereditary information) were mostly collected from places like Ethiopia, (legally/illegally) where rich biodiversity is still discernible. An average region in Ethiopia has more biodiversity than the whole of North America put together! Be that as it may, there is a disturbing intention behind the whole scheme. Conglomerates/corporations are rushing to patent these naturally occurring organisms (as if they were their own creation) to secure royalties (patent rent) from their use. This is bio piracy! Sadly absurdities of these types have now become the regular fodder of organizations like the WTO (TRIPS etc), to say nothing about other minions.
In the good old days, humanity had plenty of prominent personalities (scientists, etc.,) that were full of compassion and humanism. In an interview one such famous scientist was queried about his earth shattering discovery, which gave us the vaccine for the dreaded disease polio. “Who owns this patent?”, the scientist was asked and he replied, “No one. Could you patent the sun?” Jonas Salk. Good Day!