Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The acceleration of eugenics: better living through vet bionics

By William Saletan - Slate Magazine:
Researchers are breeding mutant cows that make low-fat milk. After a farm accidentally produced the first such cow, milk-company researchers 'bought her from her owner for $300 … and moved her to a secret location for further testing.' Then they bred offspring that carry the trait. The milk is 1 percent fat instead of 3.5 percent, and it has omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your heart. The next step is to identify how the gene causes the milk so this pathway can be directly engineered. Milk-company spin: It's natural! Cynical view: It's the 'accidental' product of constant breeding, and now we're going to engineer it worldwide.

Next: low fat mocha lattes, straight from the source?

Dog eugenics is accelerating thanks to DNA testing. Examples: 1) Breeders are testing Labradors and mastiffs to weed out genes for unattractive fur. 2) They're testing whippets for a muscle gene that improves racing speed. 3) A scientist is proposing to breed patrol dogs for stamina and odor detection. Objections: 1) Breeders will kill dogs that don't meet the new eugenic standards. 2) Eugenics backfires, since the gene for pretty hair in Labradors, for example, can cause skin trouble. 3) Eugenic certainty takes the mystery and fun out of breeding. 4) Dogs with better genes should have to race in their own league. 5) Human eugenics will be next, since we also have the whippets' muscle gene. Rebuttals: 1) Come on, we're talking about dogs, not people. 2) We bred dogs long before DNA testing. 3) Tests can help us weed out genes that cause dog diseases.

And we're worrying about steroids and HGH?

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