The Guardian July 5, 2000


Editorial:
The human GENOME map

The mapping of human DNA (deoxyribonucleic acids) is undoubtedly a 
tremendous scientific event and credit must go to the teams of scientists 
who have contributed to this achievement.

It has been made possible by the steady accumulation of scientific 
knowledge in many fields over thousands of years. The early mathematicians, 
the astronomical theories of Copernicus, Darwin's theory of evolution, 
Einstein's theory of relativity, Marx' and Engel's theory of dialectical 
materialism which gave all who wish to use it tools by which to understand 
the processes going on in nature and human society, the splitting of the 
atom, the discovery of anti-biotics, computer technology and many others, 
have all contributed.

For thousands of years there have been those who have studied the human 
body and sought to understand its workings, find treatments and cures for 
diseases, and prolong life. The Genome map will be an exceedingly important 
tool which provides the knowledge necessary to find new solutions to many 
old problems.

Most attention is being paid to its medical use and undoubtedly, within a 
short space of time, the treatment of many illnesses will be revolutionised 
and, perhaps, permanent cures found. 

But there are many ethical, moral and economic consequences which are not 
yet being seriously considered. For example, how will the DNA map of a 
particular person be secured, who might use it and how, will it become a 
source of discrimination, if human longevity is substantially increased 
what does this do to population and how do government's cope with a huge 
increase in pensioners?

One immediate spin off from the Genome project is more scientific proof 
that there is no scientific basis for racist theories. All races have 
almost identical DNA maps. Unfortunately, this will not, in itself, do away 
with racism. It does not mean that discrimination against the Aboriginal 
and Torres Strait Islander people will now cease. This discrimination is 
based on economic interests  those who stole the land of the Aboriginal 
people do not intend to give it back or even share it with those they 
dispossessed.

An impression has already been created that the whole project was the work 
of American and British scientists. It was announced in the presence of 
President Clinton and the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair and in none of 
the press reports is there a mention that the scientists of Japan, Germany, 
France and China were directly involved together with some work being done 
by scientists in other countries.

One of the scientists involved, Dr Venter, is reported as saying that "This 
is an historic moment for private industry" and there are already 
indications that private companies are rushing in to even patent parts of 
the DNA map.

Such a development is a monstrous obscenity but it is unlikely that the 
governments of the US, Britain or Australia that are wedded to the private 
enterprise "market" system will rapidly implement the necessary laws to 
ensure that the map is available to the whole world.

The other major question which is similarly being neglected is the uses to 
which the DNA map could be put to clone and tailor-make human beings to 
serve certain purposes. Let the evil intentions of many of those in power 
and who may control and use of the DNA map, be underestimated. It is now 
possible to deliberately breed human beings with physical and mental 
inclinations as mindless workers, soldiers or killers, others engineered 
for specific purposes and, of course, an elite with enhanced mental 
capabilities  born to rule!

Far-fetched? Animals are already being cloned and seeds genetically 
engineered. Scenes from Dr Who or Star Trek easily come to mind.

The inventions and discoveries of the last few decades are tremendous 
strides in knowledge but they also provide the means by which the power to 
control and exploit has been enhanced. Private enterprise is already 
reaching out to gain complete and unchallenged control over these 
discoveries to be used for its own purposes and not for the good of 
humanity as a whole. The next few decades will determine whether humanity 
awakens to it's danger and acts in time.
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