You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it. Robin Williams

Location: Kentucky, United States

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Oh Brave New World that has such, Uh, Things, in it.

While reading a back issue of National Geographic magazine early this morning I came across an article on high-tech fabrics. One section referred to a company in Montreal called Nexia Biotechnologies that is using transgenics to breed goats that produce complex proteins in their milk. These proteins are then separated out to produce medical or industrial materials.

What has totally messed with my mind all day is that they have combined, (I am not going to even pretend I understand the science behind this) a spliced gene from a spider with a goat to come up with spider-web goat’s milk.

That’s right, goat’s milk that contains what is essentially, spider-web material, that is separated from the milk, then “spun” out from an artificial spider-web extruder to make a filament that is five times stronger than steel.

What are the thought processes that led up to someone even considering this? What else is in their minds? How many of the innumerable combinations of unthinkable possibilities are on the drawing board right now?

Don’t get me wrong; I am not sure I am against this. However, I am concerned that this type of work is going on before we have a clear ethical plan for where we are going. Then again, maybe that path has already been decided for us, but who made that decision, and are they really qualified to speak for everyone? It think there needs to be some time spent in intense public debate about the choices ahead of us, before someone opens Pandora’s Box and we are all left to live with what is inside of it.


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