The Genome as a Commons: Through All the Trials and Tribulations of Human History, What Binds Us in the End Is Our Common Humanity. (the Risks of the Rush)
Athanasiou, Tom, Darnovsky, Marcy, World Watch
The atmosphere. The oceans and fresh waters. The land itself, and the fruits and grains our forebears bred and cultivated upon it. The broadcast spectrum. The attention spans of our children.
Does such a list adequately evoke "the commons," and the stakes we face in trying to save it--both for itself and as the foundation of our common future?
Or must we add yet another, more shocking example? Perhaps we must put the human genome itself on this endangered commons list, and note that if this genetic commons too is lost to partition and privatization, if it too becomes the privilege of the affluent, then none of us on either side of the divide can be sure of retaining the "humanity" we like to think we've achieved.
The biotech boosters, of course, don't see things this way. Many of them insist that any conceivable application of human genetic engineering is essential to medical progress, and that the possibilities, no matter how speculative, trump all other considerations. Thus they shrug off the likely outcome of embryo cloning--that it will sooner or later lead to reproductive cloning, and then jump-start both the technologies and justifications of inheritable genetic modification.
Some of them are even enthusiastically promoting "designer babies" and "post-humans" as the next new things. (l) Indeed, the techno-eugenic hard school is now promising that, within a generation, "enhanced" babies will be born with increased resistance to diseases, optimized height and weight, and increased intelligence. Farther off, but within the lifetimes of today's children, they foresee the ability to adjust personality, design new body forms, extend life expectancy, and endow hyper-intelligence. Some actually predict splicing traits from other species into human children: in late 1999, for example, a Ted Koppel/ABC Nightline special on cloning speculated that genetic engineers will eventually design children with "night vision from an owl" and "supersensitive hearing cloned from a dog."
There are dark portents here in profusion, and many of them will seem familiar to environmentalists. But consider first the fundamental point: our patently inadequate ability to protect the resources of the global commons, to do them justice, to make them (in reality as well …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: The Genome as a Commons: Through All the Trials and Tribulations of Human History, What Binds Us in the End Is Our Common Humanity. (the Risks of the Rush). Contributors: Athanasiou, Tom - Author, Darnovsky, Marcy - Author. Magazine title: World Watch. Volume: 15. Issue: 4 Publication date: July-August 2002. Page number: 33+. © 2009 Worldwatch Institute. COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.