Dr. Richard Seed
When "Dolly" the cloned sheep made headlines last year, the possibility of human cloning was brought to the public's attention. In January, Dr. Richard Seed, a physicist in Chicago, announced plans to begin cloning humans within eighteen months. While news anchors joke about duplicating themselves, they belie the true ramifications of a practice that is already well established. Genetic engineering as practiced by a profit-driven biotech industry promises to change life as we know it -- from a naturally occurring phenomenon to a process that is created, patented and controlled by a few select human beings.
Dr. Seed was the first scientist in America to announce his intention to clone humans. He wants to clone babies for infertile couples and says that he had the patients and physicians he needs to begin his work. His ambition is to establish a chain of "for profit" fertility clinics. On January 7th Dr. Seed told National Public Radio, "I've said many times that you can't stop science.... God made man in his own image. God intended for man to become one with God. We are going to become one with God. We are going to have almost as much knowledge and almost as much power as God. Cloning and the reprogramming of DNA is the first serious step in becoming one with God." (Hear Dr. Seed explain his philosophy on National Public Radio - requires the free RealAudio player).
While Dr. Seed's detractors doubt the feasibility of cloning a healthy human being, there are no scientists that have dismissed his ambitions out of hand. Dr. Seed is a Harvard Ph.D in physics and has spent twenty years in genetic research. Many of his colleagues say he is a brilliant scientist who has pioneered other reproductive breakthroughs, such as the technique used in transferring a live human embryo from one mother to another. If human cloning is possible, it will take someone like Dr. Seed to do it, they say. (Are the Clones Coming? ABCNews January 7, 1998).
While Dr. Seed's statements about man becoming like God sound strange coming from a man of science, the only strange thing is his honesty. His detractors may only be uncomfortable with his brazen truthfulness, which reveals, in part, the underlying motivations in genetic engineering today. While it appears that Dr. Seed may pioneer the cloning of human babies for infertile couples, he is by no means the original "mad scientist" of genetics the media paints him to be.
The cloning of humans and animals is only one of the many uses of genetic engineering and practices such as these are usually well established by the time they are brought to public attention. For instance, Dolly the Scottish sheep was cloned in July of 1996 and the public didn't hear about it till October of 1997. The scientists who created Dolly waited till they had secured the patent on her before making her public. This insured that they would reap large profits from others who wished to use their technique. This takes us to the other prime motivator in genetic research -- money.
In 1980 the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 decision, decided that life forms could be patented provided they met the standard criteria for patentability. This criteria requires that the life form must be an original discovery which would require it to be modified in some way, usually through genetic manipulation from its natural state.
Seven years after that historic decision the U.S. Patent Office awarded a patent for a genetically engineered mouse -- its first patent on an animal. Since then, seventy-nine other animal patents have been awarded and 1,800 patents have been granted for genes and lines of cultured cells, including human ones, that presumably have medical potential. (Patent Sought on Making of Part-Human Creatures, Washington Post, April 2, 1998.)
Patents on life forms inspired investment in research which, in turn, discovered new ways to locate, manipulate and exploit genetic material. These new techniques, along with newly developed genes and cell lines, were also patentable which, in turn, created more investment in the biotech industry. The awarding of patents on life forms created a profit-driven research complex that, in turn, created its own tidal wave of investment with scientists discarding ethics in their pursuit of patents, profits and, as Dr. Seed put it, "to be like God."
Global biotech conglomerates grew in size and wealth and rapidly merged with each other as they bought out smaller companies. The resulting concentration of power has resulted in a handful of corporations dominating the agrichemical and seed market, medical and health industries, pharmaceuticals, and food and beverage production (Bio-takeovers by Jeremy Rifkin, head of the Foundation on Economic Trends, printed in The Nation, 4-13-98). Genetics engineering not only creates lucrative new medicines and treatments for diseases, it "improves" a wide range of existing consumer goods making them more profitable. For instance, scientists have introduced certain genetic traits of a fish into a hybrid tomato to give it a tougher skin and longer shelf life. What will the long-term effects be on the consumer? No one knows for sure, but longer shelf life means more profits and that's the important thing.
Like God, geneticists say to us, "Ye are not your own." This was illustrated in the case of Alaskan businessman John Moore who discovered that one of his body parts had been patented without his permission. He had been treated at U.C.L.A. for a rare form of cancer. Jeremy Rifkin writes, "An attending physician and university researcher discovered that Moore's spleen tissue produced a blood protein that facilitates the growth of white blood cells that are valuable anti-cancer agents. The university created a cell line from Moor's spleen tissue and obtained a patent on its 'invention' in 1984. The cell line is estimated to be worth more than $3 billion. Moore subsequently sued the University of California, claiming a property right over his own tissue. In 1990 the California Supreme Court ruled against Moore, holding that he had no property right over his own body tissue." (The Biotech Century: Human Life as Intellectual Property by Jeremy Rifkin, The Nation, 4-13-98).
Even now, scientists from the Human Genome Diversity Project, also known as "the vampire project", are scouring the remotest corners of the globe, tracking down people from the world's 5,000 linguistically distinct populations, drawing their blood and taking cheek scrapings that will produce unique genetic data that can be modified and patented. It is estimated that within ten years the 100,000 or so genes that make up the genetic legacy of the human race will be mapped out and patented, making them the exclusive property of global biotech, chemical, pharmaceutical and agribusiness corporations.
On April 2nd, Nature magazine reported that a New York scientist had applied for a patent on a human-animal creature. Dr. Stuart Newman, a cellular biologist at New York Medical College has never created the part human, part animal creature he calls a "Chimera" [kai-MER-ah], named after the beast of Greek mythology that had a lion's head, goat's body and serpent's tail. If awarded the patent, he hopes to prevent others from creating such a creature as well. Dr. Newman maintains that goats have been crossed with sheep creating what are called "geeps", and that crossing people and monkeys would be even easier using updated technology. The human embryo cells would be mixed with embryo cells from a monkey, ape or other animal. The cells would presumably knot together into a single embryo which, in a few days, would be transferred into the womb of a surrogate mother, "resulting in a somewhat unpredictable mix of the two species." He hopes his patent, if awarded, will delay the inevitable experiment by about twenty years when the patent runs out. (Patent Sought..., cited above).
Even though Chimeras are not publicly known to exist in the form Dr. Newman is talking about, and it is not common practice to introduce animal genes into living human beings, chimeras do exist . Human genes have been introduced into laboratory animals for years. Animals do not naturally carry certain human diseases and, so, altering their genetic makeup so they can carry those diseases is important for research.
"It is a classic slippery slope," explained Thomas Murray, director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics at Case Western Reserve University. "If we put one human gene in an animal, or two or three, some people may get nervous but you're clearly not making a person yet. But when you talk about a hefty percentage of the cells being human...this really is problematic. Then you have to ask these very hard questions about what it means to be a human." (ibid.)
Unfortunately, for the world's human population this definition is in the hands of scientists and biotech companies that make their own rules as they go along. How the world could suffer from the consequences of a scientific mistake was illustrated by an incident at the National Institutes for Health (N.I.H.). A U.S. government researcher implanted the entire human AIDS genome into some laboratory mice. Soon afterward, it was discovered that the AIDS virus had melded with other retroviruses in the mice causing it to mutate into a more virulent and contagious form. Soon after this discovery, Science magazine ran an article describing how the experiment had created a super AIDS that was potentially communicable by air. A biotech activist sued the N.I.H., forcing them to destroy most of the mice. ( The Human Body Shop: The Engineering and Marketing of Life by Andrew Kimbrell, Director for the Center for Technology Assessment).
Already the human growth gene has been introduced to pigs by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in an attempt to create a larger, more profitable pig for market. The resulting animals have ranged from the pitiful to the monstrous. One author describes one poor creature he saw as arthritic, cross-eyed and bow-legged and unable to reproduce, but the U.S.D.A. maintained that it was a very lean pig and, therefore, low in cholesterol. The British Milk Board has cloned milk cows that produce more milk in less time. Unfortunately, many of the cloned cows grew to be huge and some were twice the size they should have been. Scientists are still groping for answers as to what went wrong in the cloning process. (ibid.)
Other farm animals are being genetically altered, not only for greater food production, but to produce organs for transplantation into humans. Headless frogs have been created by scientists, proving the feasibility of creating headless humans that could grow needed organs for transplantation. Animals have been created to produce pharmaceuticals through their mammary glands and Grenada BioSciences in Texas has patented a woman who will be genetically altered to produce pharmaceuticals through her breasts. (ibid.)
Congress is debating a law against human cloning, but scientists are lobbying against it and it appears unlikely to pass. There are no laws restricting genetic engineering and in many states it is against the law to put warning labels on genetically engineered food, or even to specify on labeling which food items are not genetically engineered. Life patenting and new recombinant DNA techniques have created an entirely new resource out of the world's gene pool, and biotechnology's promise to be a $20 to $30 billion a year business by the next decade.
Government researchers have been studying genes of the human brain. At a recent government sponsored colloquium on crime, N.I.H. scientists proposed that crime was caused by genetic defects. This theory opens up an entire new field of behavior modification through genetic engineering. Novartis, a giant new biotech firm (resulting from a merger of two large companies), holds a patent on the fledgling science, human gene therapy, a technique for removing cells from a patient's body, modifying the genetic makeup and returning the cells to the patient's body. As this science develops, we may see some interesting new tools for dealing with crime, mental illness, and those who are having difficulty thinking in a politically correct manner. The potential horrors are unimaginable. (Sources: Andrew Kimbrell, cited above, in an interview on the Pacifica Radio Network; and Bio-Takeovers by Jeremy Rifkin, cited above).
Genetech Corporation, Eli Lilly, and other corporations, are selling a human growth hormone that is being injected into thousands of normal children who are simply short. Genetech defines children in the bottom 5% of height for their age group as sick -- they have the illness of shortness. The N.I.H. is involved in developing this hormone, even though it is statistically linked to leukemia and other health problems. (The Human Body Shop, cited above).
Eugenics, the science of changing the hereditary makeup of the human race through selective breeding, has reared its ugly head again. New biotechnologies will allow scientists to create "perfect" children for parents who can pay. Sex, eye and hair color, height, weight, and facial characteristics may all be determined through genetic engineering. After conception, parents may go to a "gene doctor" to determine their child's sex, if their child will be disposed to obesity, and a great number of other predispositions.
A Newsweek poll reported that eleven percent of Americans would abort their child if it was predisposed to obesity, and one percent would abort because of gender. (The Human Body Shop, cited above). "Designer children" will be the wave of the future, as those with money will be able to custom order the cute, blond little sitcom actor or Parenting magazine model of their choice. Hitler would drool to see our modern, commercially-driven eugenics civilization creating a super race through the sterile respectability of the genetic science laboratory.
Scientific discovery was once fueled by altruism, disinterested research grants, or simply the quest for knowledge. In this new biotech age scientific research is driven relentlessly by money and profits. Material wealth has become concentrated in a few hands and a veritable global slave state has been created. Global finance, as well as interlocking industrial complexes, control and develop technologies that are essential to their collective survival. Commercially-driven biotechnology and genetic engineering are more links in a chain that binds the nations.
Economic factors bribe, induce or coerce many people at the bottom of the food chain into service to this technology -- as human incubators for cloned embryos, as genetically altered human milk cows for exotic pharmaceuticals, as sources of genetic material and cell lines for patenting and profit, as guinea pigs for human gene therapy, as donors forced to sell their organs or killed for them.
New and profitable biotechnologies will, for the most part, create temporary benefits for a privileged few while mixing and confusing the genetic code of humans, animals and plants. Bio-pollution will be irreversible as altered life forms intermingle, passing on their tampered genes. The earth's delicate biosphere will be turned upside down as interconnected species become antagonistic. As the boundaries separating human, beast and plant become blurred and confused, unforeseen consequences will suddenly appear that will defy scientific remedy. In spite of these dangers, genetic scientists press on, believing they have all the right answers, believing they are God.
In his magazine article, "The Biotech Century", author Jeremy Rifkin writes, "Scientists are beginning to reorganize life at the genetic level...the globalization of commerce and trade make possible the wholesale reseeding of the Earth's biosphere with a laboratory-conceived Second Genesis, an artificially produced bioindustrial nature designed to replace nature's own evolutionary scheme.... Breakthroughs in genetic screening, including DNA chips, somatic gene therapy and the imminent prospect of genetic engineering of human eggs, sperm and embryonic cells, are paving the way for the wholesale alteration of the human species and the birth of a commercially driven eugenics civilization.... In short, the Biotech Century brings with it a new resource base, a new set of transforming technologies, new forms of commercial protection, a global trading market to reseed the earth with an artificial Second Genesis, an emerging eugenics science, a new supporting sociology, [and] a new communications tool to organize and manage economic activity at the genetic level...."
Disregarding the lessons of history, scientists and consumers alike have failed to recognize the inherent depravity of human nature. Mankind has forgotten that he is not God; forgotten that he is fallen and needs God to save him from destroying himself. The line of demarcation has been crossed and mankind, not sensing the danger, usurps the prerogatives of God and proceeds to "reorganize life on the genetic level." Man is at war with the natural order of things. From abortion, sexuality, gender and family order, man has turned things upside down and now proceeds to change the genetic makeup of the human species and nature itself. Perhaps in nature's response, in new and virulent plagues, disease, tornado, flood, earthquake, irregular weather patterns, and all manner of natural calamity, we may hear the approaching thunders of an offended God.
"The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying, Son of man, say unto the prince of Tyrus, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thine heart is lifted up, and thou hast said, I am a God, I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas; yet thou art a man, and not God, though thou set thine heart as the heart of God ...With thy wisdom and with thine understanding thou hast gotten thee riches, and hast gotten gold and silver into thy treasures ...Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thou hast set thine heart as the heart of God;...I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more." Eze. 28.
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