The Natural Way

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Maybe I'm getting old. On the front page of the business section of a major newspaper is the picture of four bulls and the proud rancher/owner. Admittedly, this is not an unusual sight here in the country but the nature (if you can call it that) of the bulls was. You see, these were genetic copies of a prize hunk of beef that donated a small portion of his ear in order for the adolescents to be created. The owner was waiting for FDA approval to get this into our food chain. Doesn't sound appealing to me.

Back in the '80s while I worked at Harbor/UCLA Medical Center, I was excited to know a researcher named Alfred Parlow, M.D. He was a difficult man to have meetings with. His laboratory was surrounded by a chain-link fence, surveillance cameras that scanned the entrance and waiting areas, his personnel had the people skills of, well, maybe that cloned bull, and you had to have a verified appointment made well in advance. Why? He was the principal researcher who discovered how to successfully do in-vitro fertilization. I met with him a half dozen times or so.

In-vitro fertilization was a way for an infertile female to experience term pregnancy and the birthing process. Basically, eggs would be taken from a donor, inseminated in the laboratory and then placed into the womb of a woman who could not conceive. This was a true medical miracle. Little did we know then what this technology would usher into our world. Maybe I'm getting old, but I don't think we humans have the wisdom to be creating new life in this way.

Now the concern with the FDA is whether the meat will be safe from the offspring of these Xerox copies. How will we know? Common sense, when listened to, will clearly tell you a copy isn't nearly as good as the original. Maybe this is my old age speaking.

I suppose people worried about that new fangled 'lectricity when it came out, too. Still if a bull can be cloned and produce offspring that are 14 months old, you know someone somewhere has already created a human being.

Scares the pants off of me.

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