What if we open sourced genetic engineering?


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Open Question #1: What would happen if we open sourced genetic engineering?

Michael Pollan talks about the relationship of open source food, intellectual property and genetic engineering. Monsanto controls the intellectual property of foods we depend on and do not allow scientists the freedom to study their genetically modified foods. Scientists are now shining a light on this, in hopes they can gather their own data since it is not made accessible by Monsanto.
Watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ta39a5w08w

What do you think?

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4 Comments

sdoherty's picture

I don't know much about it, but I have to believe that we'll innovate faster, and figure out the best solutions if we did open source genetic engineering. Some things shouldn't be about profit.

Melvin Meatballs's picture

When it comes to genetic engineering (of any natural form), you are treading on the ground where higher theologies, philosophies and ideaologies, and the lower derivations of such, each trumpet their own concepts of morailty.
Because of this, it is also where the search for purity and/or enhanced abilities and properties ultimately tend towards the obsessive.

This is the ideal feeding ground (in a promissory economy) where those who have arguably less desire for adherence to moralistic unanimity, are free to garner funds and manipulate the fervently moralistic few, to their own ends. I.e the perpeutation of the dominance of, and capitulation to, monetised power.

The concept of openness can never be wholly-effective here, as the relative few who espouse this learned (not innate) behaviour, are in too narrow a margin of the gamut of moral diversity that several thousand years of human evolution has been able to generate.

It would be exploited or quashed by those who seek control, or ultimately mutated by those on the fringes of what the open and the norm consider to be morally accpetable.

Ben Stallings's picture

As a Drupal developer, I've had the mantra hammered into me: "Don't Hack Core." You write modules, you use the API, you submit patches, but you do not make changes to the source code that everyone shares, because if you do you screw yourself and ultimately everyone else.

Genetic engineering is hacking core. Life has an API (selective breeding) that we humans have successfully used for millions of years to make new organisms. Yes, it's slow, but it's safe. Genetic engineering -- at least using the tools available to us now -- is inherently dangerous, and should be in the hands of as few people as possible so that they can be regulated and watched closely for any screw-up. I'd prefer to have nobody doing it.

So although I agree that scientists should be free to study GMOs and publish their findings without having to go through Monsanto to do it, and I'd be ecstatic if the FDA would wait to approve new organisms until the open community of scientists reviewed the code and gave their approval, I can't imagine either of those things happening given the current cast of characters. I feel that genetic engineering is not compatible with the morals of the open source community and we should stand opposed to it in the same way and for the same reasons as the Drupal community opposes hacking core.

Bob Bruen's picture

Genetic engineering has been underway since at least 1997 when an unlucky mouse got a human ear on its back. In 2001, rabbits that glow were created. MIT has an undergrad course in directed evolution of an enzyme. Lastly a group in Japan has managed to make glowing monkeys pass on the trait its children. Make no mistake genetic engineering is here and will be here forever.

The only real question is when does it turn into eugenics on demand? First, we engineer out all the nasty genetic diseases (or as many as we can), then we begin enhancement (already underway), then someone, somewhere will isolate a unique bit of the genome that only some group has and turns it into a weapon to eliminate that group.

In the meantime, those enhancements get passed on to the next generation of children - in the gene pool forever (or at least until someone reverses it). At that point humans will have taken over responsibility from Natural Selection to Directed Selection, with no turning back. No laws, rules or beliefs have universal control.

The future looks interesting, but not in a good way. And if you do not believe me, you are simply uninformed.

bob