Transgenic Madness

In the past decade huge advances have been made in the field of transgenic research, the study of transferring genes from one species to another. What was once limited to a small number of crops has expanded out into a broad spectrum of animals as well.

Transgenic Green Glowing Marmoset (Callithrix jacchus)
Transgenic Marmoset Expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP)

To date the highest order of animal that scientists will admit to having genetically modified by the inclusion of completely foreign genetic material is the common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus). The marmoset is a primate though and the changes they’ve made since 2009 have been genetically stable so there’s little in the way of technological hurdles left for them.

This, without even considering its use on humans, opens the door to some “interesting” possibilities. 😉

Transgenesis 1:24 ( New Atheists Bible )

“Let the land produce living creatures according to our whim”

I’m approaching this with a little humor, and not all of it ill-natured, because there is a definite potential benefit from creating transgenic organisms. Even the “sports,” which history tells us will be some of the first commercial applications, have the possibility of bringing people a lot of wonder and joy.

There’s, however, just so very much that could go wrong because scientists often ask, “Can we…” but rarely ask, “Should we…” and we really know very little about the interactions between genes or how transgenic creatures would affect the biosphere as whole.

I’m not even going to go into the nightmares this will cause when, not if, we start doing it with humans. Too many of the scenarios that instantly come to my mind are too deplorable and too plausible.

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5 Responses to “Transgenic Madness”

  1. Paradigm Says:

    It will be great. We can have semi-humans working for us around the clock while we take permamanent vacation. And there will be unicorns for everyone.

  2. jonolan Says:

    Something like that would be bound to happen at some point if things aren’t kept carefully constrained, Paradigm.

    My concerns were more immediate though and a lot simpler and easier to implement if I understand the underlying state of the science correctly.

    I can easily picture India and a few other nations adding Caucasian genes to their children to lighten their skin and other simple modifications for purely cosmetic reasons.

    Not only would this enable various existing cultural problems, but we really don’t fully understand the ramifications to the species.

  3. Freedom, by the way Says:

    Give me the shivers!

  4. Steve Says:

    These images are ALL fake; even the top one, claiming to be a transgenic marmoset. That is not even a marmoset, much less a transgenic animal glowing from green fluorescent protein. Misrepresentations like this harm all causes, on both sides of the issue, including those sympathetic to the concerns that transgenesis may be dangerous.

  5. jonolan Says:

    Actually, Steve, whether or not that image is actually a baby marmoset – I had doubts when I posted it since it looks like a squirrel or rhesus monkey – they have indeed made “glo-in-the-dark” primates, including marmosets.

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