Allan Takes Aim Blog

Gene swapping

Posted on: 14 June 2009


What do we know about genes other than that every plant and animal has them and that in many cases, some plant and animal genes are little different to the ones that drive the human engine, meaning you and me?

However, apart from finding this out scientists also have found out that by splicing genes from some animals and plans into genes of different species they can increase the growth rate and nutritional value of the species. At the same time they have found out that gene modification can make plants more resistant to the pests that attack and destroy them while on the animal side cloning is becoming an everyday occurrence.

Some geneticists have indicated their intention of cloning humans. If that’s the case, in the future it might be wise for young who don’t get on with their prospective mothers – in – law to check that their intended bride is not the result of such cloning.

But more seriously, when you hear that millions of people in India, North Korea, Pakistan, Somalia and parts of Africa for example are living in an almost permanent state of starvation, you might think improving the growth rate and nutritional value of animals and plants is to be applauded.

Unfortunately, some people, including my better half Boadicea, are not applauding. Indeed with many others, she says that meddling with the evolutionary process is certain to bring disaster while some say gene splicing should be allowed to modify human behaviour and improve both animal and plant growth and nutritional value it should never be used to clone, humans in particular.

I don’t agree. In fact for a long time I’ve been thinking about gene splicing in humans, particularly politicians, speculating that it could be the answer to the problems of good government. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that, rather than continue our current pot-luck system, every politician we elected was worth electing?

Well I think that time is coming. Unfortunately by the time it arrives in the shape of the Book of Genes, I will have departed. Unlike the original Book of Genesis also, the stories in this book will not be anecdotal myths and legends treated as fact but accurate stories of life.

 In genetic language, it will tell the history of the human race since the dawn of time. Much to the discomfort of those who believe in the creation theory it will also show our close relationship with chimpanzees (in fact as I look around I’ve concluded that in some cases the relationship is still close). It will also add to their discomfort because it will tell us about our single cell microbe ancestors of 4 billion years ago.

 But perhaps the encouraging thing is that not only will the book accurately trace our genetic past, it will herald a bright new future because it will give answers as to how afflictions such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s can be prevented.

The only sad thing I have to say about the book is, that at 800 million or so bibles long, you won’t be able to put it on the bookshelf. However I am sure future technological development will help make access easy.

 Don

 N.B. Canberrans! For local news, get The Chronicle

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