Engineered to be perfect

Jan 262004
Authors: Stacey Schneider

If movies are any indication of our future, people will be

required to wear the one-piece silver jumpsuit, cars will be able

to fly through the layers of the atmosphere and babies will be

genetically engineered to be “perfect” human beings. While we all

laugh at these seemingly ridiculous ideas (one can hardly imagine

Britney Spears succumbing to clothing), the latter of the group is

already beginning to take a frightening shape. Where as the gender

of a child was once a much-anticipated surprise, new technology is

helping couples choose the sex of their next bundle of joy.

According to an article in Newsweek entitled “Brave New Babies,”

sex selection is now giving parents the opportunity to select

whether they want to paint the nursery pink or blue. Originally

introduced as a method for determining genetic diseases, sex

selection techniques are offered to those wishing to “balance their

families” and choose the sex of their child.

There are several methods for sex selection, the most expensive

costing a couple close to $20,000. Preimplantation genetic

diagnosis (PGD) involves mixing an egg and sperm in a lab dish to

produce embryos. The sex of the embryo can then be determined and

selected embryos can be implanted in the woman.

If a couple does not have the money to spend on this procedure,

the Genetics and IVF Institute (GIVF) boasts a technology that is

currently in an FDA trail called MicroSort. In this procedure, the

sperm is analyzed under the basis that the X-chromosome contains

more DNA than the Y. This allows researchers to determine which

sperm will produce male offspring and which female.

As does any technological “advance” involving the human being,

sex selection raises many ethical and moral dilemmas. First, many

fear that these sex selection procedures will lead to an unbalanced

number of males to females due to couples preferring one sex to

another. However, according to the article, couples are not overly

requesting one sex and it is unlikely that this procedure will tip

the sex balance over.

Another common predicament caused by this technology is the

issue of abortion. If embryos are created of the “wrong” sex, what

will become of these? Should they be aborted? Or perhaps should

they be donated for the advancement of science? Abortion is already

a tricky and touchy subject in the minds of Americans, and this

procedure only contributes to the thick clouds of this issue.

The last problematic question, and perhaps most foretelling of

the future of science, is how far can technology go before it

crosses the ethical line? Just because scientists can help couples

choose a baby’s sex, does that mean they should? If we allow people

to start choosing the sex, this selection could lead to genetic

technology that could produce babies more inclined to be smart,

tall or blue-eyed. Essentially, couples could choose how they want

their child. As clich� as it may seem, sex selection allows

scientists to start taking on a God-like role. While some see the

prevention of sex selection as a hindrance to the advancement of

technology and science, these procedures allow human beings to

disrupt the course of nature.

In addition, having a baby should not be like choosing a car.

Couples should not be able to decide on a car (the baby) and select

the different options (the sex.) These procedures treat babies as

if they are material products and just prove that nothing is sacred

from consumerism anymore.

On a less important note, sex selection takes away one of life’s

greatest surprises. In a society where people live by planners and

have a tendency to carefully plan out every single detail of life,

having a baby is one of the last true surprises we have.

While I know this topic doesn’t hit home with most of you at the

moment, the reality of kids may soon be in your future. You will

have to start saving now if you want that little boy to carry down

the family name with a “junior” attached at the end. In the

meantime, enjoy those science-fiction movies that attempt to

predict the future. If any of those movies ever end up being right,

one can only hope the future will include flying DeLoreans.

Stacey is a senior majoring in marketing. Her column runs every

other Tuesday.

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