Opinions on Genetic Engineering in Yemen and Abroad [Archives:1998/01/Health]

January 5 1998

Martin Dansky / Yemen Times
People are talking about genetic engineering their uses and their misuses: some say that the cloning of cells is beneficial for the production and purification of cell products that then be marketed like biotin for example. Others want to produce hardier varieties of plants; others want to develop new animal species that would be more productive agriculturally and others want to help infertile women to conceive and to control diseases by recognizing the genes responsible for them. Should science stop and ethics take over? Questions have risen as to the overall benefits of science and specifically genetic engineering to intervene on behalf of mankind.
Humans Today as a result man is ever so close as to recognizing genes that when activated cause diseases. Recognizing the gene causing rheumatism, for instance might enable scientists to prevent its expression. But genetic engineering also reminds of the stories of post-war Europe and the cloning of liver cells from the leader of Nazi Germany. It reminds us of the potential the genetic research has over the masses and of being unaware and impotent to be able to control its misuse. After Princess Diana’s untimely death her fans suggested that her genes be implanted into another woman so as to produce a woman of similar characteristics. When an elderly woman received a fertilized egg from her daughter in the Italy two years ago and then conceived, critics said that the woman recipient was to ol d to bear children. Supporters are pressing for more research in America to isolate and identify the genes that cause different cancers, those effecting the blood pressure, that cause bone diseases in the elderly and many more.
Religion Criticism has also arisen from the oldest functioning university in the Arab world, the Al – Azhar Mosque and University. Genetic engineering is hardly popular there as critics state that this should not be conducted on humans. Criticism has also been expressed by the pope in Italy who is more in favor of natural child birth. Orthodox Jews are also against this sort of experimentation whether it be artificial transplants for women who cannot conceive or whether it be due to genetic manipulation which interferes with the normal child bearing process. Therefore there is a consensus among the three great western religions that genetic tampering is taboo. There are however liberals the world over that promote the artificial implantation of a fertilized egg into another woman. Success stories of women who no longer ovulate yet conceive will probably become more common in spite of the opposition of the traditionalists.
Plants The fact of many more predicted mouths to feed by the next century is reason enough especially for food experts to promote this kind of research. Food marketing experts will be behind this approach. New varieties of vegetable strains are being experimented on especially for the arid nations of the world that would germinate faster, be more resistant to plant viruses and withstand the arid climate. The artificial use of hormone effects on plant calluses has aided botanists to better understand how certain crop growth can be stimulated.
Insects Not all genetic crosses are success stories and the reader is reminded of a wild Brazilian bee type that was experimented on ten years back and escaped captivity. This type crossed with the domestic type and passed on its aggressive traits. Clearly the passing on of aggressive traits to domestic bees is of no advantage. And there are always incidents of hyper-allergic people dying of bee stings in the U. S. In any case there’s no turning back the clock on genetic research.