Designing Babies?

by Ryan Jeon, Biological Engineering major

In the last few sections of class, we learned about biotechnology and how the science of genetic engineering is performed. While we only discussed the science in depth with plants, there is a lot of science being researched on genetically engineering humans. Designer babies are when parents get to literally “design” physical traits, such as gender, height, or eye color. It is not limited to physical traits however, as more and more evidence is being done that suggests that intelligence and athleticism is also encoded in our DNA.

I have watched a documentary on in vitro fertilization, where a procedure can be done to determine physical characteristics in a baby. First, what the scientists do is pull out a sum of eggs from a woman. This group of eggs are then sent to a lab, fertilized with sperm, and then further analyzed into test results that can finally show which fertilized egg had the gene for a desired eye color. The procedure can even extend to calculating susceptibility rates for genetic diseases. After a desired fertilzed egg is chosen, it is then implanted back into the mother’s uterus where it will develop as a normal human baby, except it was specifically chosen out of a larger pool of fertilized eggs. While we are far from having the ability to engineer more complex traits, imagine a world where we could, and it wasn’t extended to just eye color, but with specific personality, intelligence, and physical traits?

This is no cheap procedure, and I already know this would be limited to just the upper class who can afford the expense of having genetically designed, taller, smarter, hotter or more athletic children.  The advantages would become evident not at the age of a career, but in one’s primary education. Even at a youthful age, these would be the kids getting into the top colleges or being scouted for sports, already causing a disadvantage as early as age 16. There eventually would be an evident social divide, as some naturally born humans who are not athletic, aesthetic or intelligent may feel like a second-tier human. These designer babies would not only live longer due to more robust health, but they can also hold higher and more well-paying jobs as adults, being able to afford the expense of designing their own children, thus completing the cycle.

This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

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