22 May 2010


I read with alarming interest in this morning's papers "the new paper" and "Today" that this genome and DNA researcher Dr Craig Venter synthesized an organism with man-made DNA, common microbes, a DNA synthesizer, a computer and 4 bottles of chemicals.

In simple terms, it seemed all beneficial and totally harmless. After all, the original organism that spawned this new "life" was a bacterium that causes mastitis, which is the inflammation of the breast tissues, in goats.

In all things, there are always boons and banes. There are always separate camps and schools of thoughts for and against it.

Those for it would cite all the medical and scientific breakthroughs and benefits it could potentially bring e.g. algae that could possibly remove excess carbon dioxide from air. They would claim it is no different from what humanity has done all along - to control nature e.g. domesticating animals for our use. They would blur the line and say this is not creation of life but just merely mimicking it. Afterall, this is just a micro-organism, they would say.

Those against it would ask if he is playing god and cite all the unethical issues? Has he opened the Pandora's box to unleash what would inevitably come as a result of such scientific work e.g. environmental calamities, biological weapons? Would this open the floodgates for more and bigger artificial organisms to be created?

I for one, is against this kind of DNA work. I applaud the genius and talent of Dr Venter but I guess there are certain things that we should never venture into. Usually, all these medical advances were carried out with the best of interests for mankind, but there is no denying the possibility of things going wrong in the end. No matter how remote it is, it can still go wrong. What Dr Venter did is now in the open. What about the other experiments and projects that were not thrown into the light?

First, there was Dolly the lamb that was cloned. Now this. What's next? Perhaps I have been watching too many movies, such as "28 Days Later", "28 Weeks Later" and Will Smith's "I am Legend", which by the way I loved very much. These movies and other similar ones struck fear in me. I know I don't and cannot live forever, but I don't want our world to be exterminated and our lives to be cut short because of some scientific experiment went wrong. In "Jurassic Park" and its sequels, we learnt what could go wrong when we play with nature. Whilst the above were just movies, they present possible scenarios that could occur just by accident or deliberate actions and the escape of these unknown organisms out of the laboratory could mean the end of some other lives. Micro-organisms are very capable of mutation for survival. Haven't we learnt of how the H1N1 mutated into several strains, with some being more potent than others? How would we know that this would not happen to this new single-celled organism?

They can deny all they want that they are not playing god, synthesizing life etc, but seriously, who are they kidding? Call me a skeptic because I don't have good feelings about such breakthroughs and I can only hope that our world would not be thrown into a spiral by the acts of man himself. Like what uncle Ben said to Peter Parker in Spiderman "with great power, comes great responsibility". Only time will tell whether we should be grateful or not to this brillant man behind all these.