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Between hope and disaster - about genetics and genetic engineering

Genetics is one of the most important fields in which modern science deals. In the last thirty years we have been able to create babies through in vitro fertilization, clone different animals, discover congenital genetic defects, create healthier and more durable food, explore our origins and the unwritten human history, and more.

In his book "Journey to the Consciousness of Nature" Zvi Yanai quotes a number of biological predictions that were falsified during the lifetimes of those who conceived them: "Understanding the true nature of the garden is beyond the ability of immortals" (1935); It is not possible to determine the complete sequence of the human genome (1974); "It is not possible to change a specific gene in the embryo" (1984); There is no possibility of reading the genetic information represented in a single embryonic cell" (1985); "It is impossible to clone people from an adult cell" (1996).

Genetic Engineering

These quotes illustrate how rapid the progress of technology is and is not expected even by experts in the field: bringing children to barrens and same-sex couples; animal and human cloning; elimination of diseases and hereditary defects (from the Western world); Screening embryos, including viewing computer simulations, Possible risks and diseases, Personality traits; genetic enhancements; Creating a superior race.

Elimination of genetic diseases

The tremendous power of genetics allows us for the first time in history to provide a real solution to the plight of infertile couples, and although twenty years ago it was a controversial process, today in vitro fertilization is an accepted and very common process in the world.

Cloning, on the other hand, is a process that encounters walls of tremendous resistance from every possible direction. One of the people to blame for this is Albin Toffler, in his famous book "The Shock of the Future" written in 1970 about the danger of cloning people like Hitler, thus introducing fear and reluctance to the whole topic of cloning into modern culture. And yet, even if we clone a thousand Hitlers, not one of them will be Hitler himself, because that way he has to go through exactly the same experiences during his life and there is no way to reproduce it exactly. Although there is a ban in many countries of the world for cloning embryos and humans, today is developing Race to clone the first human In the backyard of the universities. Although there have already been several organizations that have claimed to have succeeded in cloning a human, they have not yet been able to prove it scientifically, but there is no doubt that the day when scientists will succeed in cloning humans is very close.

And yet the biggest change that genetics will bring will not come from the field of cloning. This is a relatively long process that begins already now when many couples who have children in the Western world do genetic tests and thus significantly reduce the risk of hereditary genetic diseases. In the end we will succeed in almost completely eliminating these genetic diseases from the western world.

The next step in that long-term process is embryo screening. The process is technically possible already today, and it is likely that it will gain great popularity in the future. Prof. Lee Silver describes in his book "Recreating Eden" how a young couple looks at computer simulations of frozen embryos and chooses the embryo they wish to give birth to. Such a computer simulation will allow us to know the sex of the fetus, discover genetic defects, general appearance (hair color, eyes, potential height, etc.) and also personal traits such as a tendency to addiction, a musical tendency and more. Accordingly, we will be able to filter out damaged or potentially problematic embryos and choose the best ones to be our children. In doing so we will create a genetic distillate that takes the best possible of our genes.

The final stage in that long-term process is the creation of a superior human race. I deliberately chose to use such a charged term, and unlike the Nazi ideology, this time it is not just about slogans. These will be better people in almost every sense - more beautiful, healthier, stronger and smarter. Prof. Silver predicts that within a few hundred years the genetic difference will be so great that the different races will not even be able to produce fertile children together, just as mating between a horse and a donkey always produces an infertile mule.

I previously published an article discussing the social effects of creating a superior genetic race. In this article I recommended the film GATTACA which deals with these dilemmas, and I repeat and recommend it to anyone who is interested in the subject.

genetically modified food

In 2030 the world population will number over ten billion people; The Third World is already suffering from a lack of food, desertification processes and pests that develop immunity will exacerbate the phenomenon. the solution- genetically modified food.

We are currently facing a problem of enormous dimensions. At the current rate of growth, the world's population will reach over eight billion people in 2030, and the vast majority of them will live in conditions of abject poverty. Add to this global warming, desertification processes (turning more and more areas into deserts), pests that develop resistance to pesticides and destroy more areas, and you will begin to understand the issues that will be a global priority in a few decades.

The world must deal with this problem in some way. In Yuval Dror's recommended book "The Politics of Technology", there is a quote from one of the newsletters of the "!Earth First" movement (an extremist organization that supports violent actions against technology in order to save the world and return to nature): "If a radical environmental movement were to invent a disease that would return the The human population has returned to ecological sanity, most likely it was AIDS. As members of a radical environmental movement, we can see AIDS not as a problem but as a necessary solution."

A more humane alternative to deal with the amount of people is to develop genetically modified food products that will allow easy and fast growing of more food, even if under difficult conditions, and this is to try and support the growing world population. Although there is no solution here for the amount of population, on the contrary, I personally believe that we must not solve the problem of population explosion in the world by cruel and mass starvation or a murderous epidemic that has no cure.

Examples of genetically modified food: Rice that can grow in brackish water conditions, and provide more nutritional value to those who feed on it; Strong and resistant wheat that can grow in harsh conditions; fatter cows that give more milk and are easier to raise; Antibiotic potatoes; cereals containing vitamins; Orchids that will alert you to the dryness of the soil with a twinkle. Is genetic engineering safe?

If so, we are currently in a situation where we are able to engineer agricultural crops. The priority is currently developing wheat that is more resistant and has a greater yield, fatter cows that give more milk, etc., but our capabilities do not end here. We have already seen square watermelons, new types of fruit and in fact there is no reason why we cannot combine them as well Medicines and vitamins in different types of food. Zvi Yanai in his book "Journey to the Consciousness of Nature" tells about orchids that will allow a visual report on the degree of dryness in the soil and will also allow poor farmers to know the state of the crops without expensive and sophisticated measuring tools.

Almost no one has any doubt that this is the only hope of hundreds of millions of people in the world. Without genetic engineering we simply will not be able to provide enough food to support the tens of billions of people who will soon populate the earth.

"First of all is food, and morality comes after it" (Bertold Brecht).

But the main question that must be checked before releasing genetically modified agriculture to the world is whether genetic engineering is safe?

There is no doubt that there are serious dangers in genetic engineering; The subject arouses strong and almost religious opposition; It is likely that we will not be able to stop the technology and must examine it in depth. Michael Creighton: "Environmentalists have killed between ten and thirty million people in the last thirty years. We must prevent the politicization of science."

We still do not fully understand the complex genetic structure of DNA and there is no doubt that the dangers of irresponsible development of genetic engineering are present and tangible. Transgenic genes may end up in unexpected places in the DNA, suppress other genes and create cancerous processes. If they reach the reproductive cells of a genetically modified animal, they may also be passed on to future generations.

Many genetic studies ended with unexpected and even devastating results. Zvi Yanai tells about the oceanographic museum in Monaco that used algae bombarded with violet radiation in the mid-XNUMXs to make them more colorful and beautiful in the aquarium. However, through the drainage canals algae spread to the Mediterranean Sea and within a few years it covered tens of thousands of dunams of seabed in the Mediterranean Sea and from there to America. Its toxicity led to mass extinction and a decrease of about fifty percent in the local fish. In addition, the destruction of corals, oysters, marine flora and more was documented. A perfect solution to this problem has not yet been found.

Various religious organizations as well as other bodies have enshrined on their flag blind opposition to genetic engineering. As mentioned, there is no doubt that the full consequences of genetic engineering must be examined in depth, but it is important to remember that aside from the dangers there is hope for saving the lives of tens and hundreds of millions of people. The opposition is completely legitimate as long as it is logical and based on scientific truths, but we must be careful of the politicization of science and blind religious opposition to everything related, even if indirectly, to genetic engineering. It is important to remember that a legal ban on genetic engineering will not stop the technology but will only lead to a situation where the research will move to other countries in the world. It can be determined with almost complete certainty that we will not be able to stop the technology, so it is worthwhile to make sure that it is researched in depth, in a correct and efficient manner and to derive the maximum benefit from it.

Michael Creighton - A writer who deals with technological and scientific issues, and who wrote, among others, "Jurassic Park", "Prey" and many other books, claims that since the seventies of the twentieth century, between ten and thirty million people have died as a result of the war of various organizations in genetic engineering and spraying materials. In the sixties of the twentieth century, an ideological front was opened against the use of pesticides, primarily DDT, which was a common pesticide at the time. Rachel Carson ignited the revolution with her book "The Silent Spring" in which she attacked the massive use of pesticides. But in hindsight the public panic that led to the banning of DDT was exaggerated. There is no doubt that the uncontrolled use of pesticides is dangerous, but DDT is not carcinogenic and does not cause the death of birds as Carson claimed in her book. The ban on its use led to the death of about ten million people in the third world, most of them children. Crichton fiercely attacks ecological fundamentalism as defined, and emphasizes that we must rescue ecology from the clutches of the new ecological religion and rely solely on science in everything related to genetic engineering and similar developments.

Zvi Yanai says that while millions of their citizens are dying of hunger, the leaders of Zambia and Zimbabwe rejected a donation of thousands of tons of genetically modified corn kernels out of fear for the health of their citizens, and this despite the fact that even a mild upset stomach has never been recorded as a result of this type of corn.

The shocking image on the slide, which shows a "genetically engineered" woman attached to a milking machine, is an advertisement for organizations that oppose genetic engineering in New Zealand. In my opinion, this is an excellent example of the cheap demagoguery employed by these organizations, since it is clear that no one has the intention of turning women into milking machines in agricultural crops.

The clash between genetics and morality:

  • Is it allowed to clone humans?
  • What about dinosaurs, extinct animals and early man?
  • Should babies who have genetic defects be aborted?
  • Will we agree to have three mothers for a single child?
  • Breeding animals with human organs intended for transplantation - what is the status of a monkey with a human brain?
  • Would it be right to develop a super-generation of humans that would be healthier and better?
  • How will we deal with genetic class differences?

We see that there are many moral questions that arise as a result of the development of genetic engineering. I believe that the questions speak for themselves.

10 תגובות

  1. In practice, we are talking here about taking what nature does "with closed eyes" into our own hands.
    So who among you is ready to have the genetic baggage of our ancestor (the monkey) returned to him?
    And who among you is ready to go on a high speed trip with your eyes closed on the highway?
    This is how it will look in the mirror of time to our great-grandchildren!
    (We got our genetic makeup from natural selection in exactly the same way the monkey did, but our great-grandchildren will get theirs by "human selection" of better genetic makeups).

    I also have something to say to you:
    My Jewish brother, some of our people (and I know mostly about those who passed through Auschwitz) survived by eating the bark of the camp's trees.
    There is a greater chance of not dying of hunger when there is something to eat, than when there is nothing to eat, and it is the responsibility of the leaders to provide food for their subjects, even if they think that this food will kill them at some point.
    The main thing is to "gain time", to give hope for a miracle that will save the crowd from certain death.
    This is also something that our people know first hand.
    This is the story of Hanukkah! (Remembers the song: "A small jar, a small jar, 8 days that our name gave").
    The difference is that in the case of Zambia and Zimbabwe, the "miracle" is that they were sent food that was not harmful to them at all!

  2. To my face:
    If I were the leader of Zambia or Zimbabwe, I would check a little and buy the genetically modified corn, think, which is better? Are people sure to die of hunger all the time, or will they get good food and in the worst case die of stomach poisoning?
    Although something global could happen, like the development of corn over other crops...

  3. You don't have to worry too much about ethical and moral issues and all this nonsense, you just have to go forward with progress and it will be fine as it always is fine. It's just a natural fear of the unknown.

  4. Soon we will reach eternal life, people will be treated in garages and every organ that exceeds its function will be replaced, one generation
    Regarding population explosion, what's the problem, they don't have more children, there is one generation left here forever...

  5. In my opinion, it is forbidden to download genes because it is always possible that they prevent some kind of disease

  6. There is no such thing as perfection
    After we pass the health and beauty barrier, new challenges and obstacles will emerge.
    Increasing mental, telepathic abilities and all kinds of other science fiction..
    Evolution does not stop, from monkeys to people and from people to super-people-droid-cyborgs

  7. Lamnon, you are right in every word, but the question is, should the scientists cooperate with such desires? Or will they refuse, because they know the danger to the rest of the human race.
    Just to clarify the question, I'm not talking about removing genes that encode terminal genetic diseases, but about a desire to build a "perfect person".

  8. Daniel - you raise a valid point. Serious and in-depth research is required before we "remove" problematic genes, and even then it is not guaranteed that we will not harm any abilities in the long run. Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, there are no specific genes for certain diseases and/or traits, but it is almost always a complex combination of genes, so it is very difficult to know exactly what to remove and what to leave.

    Another problem that arises from this matter is that in the long term it is a reduction of the human gene pool, which may lead to sensitivity and vulnerability to new diseases and epidemics. And despite all this, almost every pair of parents who are faced with the alternative, would prefer to invest a reasonable amount (say about $1,000) to remove genes that could be destructive to their children. The good of your child will almost always come before the good of the human race as a whole in the long run...

  9. The problem that arises from this topic, which person is the most suitable to survive from an evolutionary point of view? And the answer is that there is no such animal because it has already become clear that genetic mutations that were considered a bad thing, were actually the ones that constituted the lifeline for the human race, for example people who suffer from sickle cell anemia have a reduced chance of contracting malaria. In addition, another genetic phenomenon was discovered among African populations - a lack of a certain protein, which is usually found on the surface of red blood cells. Also makes these people immune to malaria.
    And this is just a small example, genes that seem harmful to us now may turn out to be the key to saving the human race in the future.

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