Build-A-Baby

Get your made-to-order babies here (courtesy of Wired.com)

Throughout the United States and around the world, Build-A-Bear Workshops allow children to create personalized stuffed animals for a minimal cost, usually between $15 and $50.

Granted, this may not seem “minimal” to some, but it’s not all that expensive, either. In most cases, one of these animals costs less than taking the family out for dinner and a movie.

It works like this: A child selects a character and can choose from things like bears, bunnies, elephants, cats, rag dolls, lions and a host of others, all of them “maxed out” in terms of cuteness. After adding sounds or a pre-recorded song, the toys are stuffed, stitched, fluffed, named and then personalized with clothes or a costume. Embroidery can even be added.

This means that instead of buying basic teddy bears, parents can purchase stuffed animals that their kids designed themselves. These toys can be doctors, cowboys, Jedi warriors or almost anything else a child could imagine. And we all know how important it is to feed our children’s imaginations, right?

Now imagine if parents were capable of doing the same thing. Only instead of designing stuffed animals, they would be designing their own children.

Welcome to the Build-A-Baby workshop!

As far-fetched as this seems, the question of whether humans could be genetically engineered has been pondered for decades, perhaps even longer. And given all the recent advancements in technology, as well as the mapping of the human genome, this question has quickly become a controversy in the worlds of both science and medicine.

On one side are the detractors who believe genetically altered humans represent a crime against nature. They reference things like animals and crops, which have already been genetically enhanced. It’s easy to discard a vegetable that doesn’t turn out right, but would we be willing to do the same for a human being?

I can see where they’re coming from.

On the flip side are those who feel genetically engineered humans are the next step in our evolution and could help prevent diseases, disorders and a host of other issues. Processes would have to be proven safe and effective first, but then why not try to improve or upgrade our species?

I see their point, too. And honestly, I don’t know which argument is the strongest.

Could this be our future? (property of Goddard)

The most recent debate seems to be focused on a specific technology known as mitochondrial transfer. This involves replacing defective mitochondrial DNA—which is passed from mother to child and could result in birth defects, genetic disorders or even death—with mitochondria from a donor. Of course, the process isn’t perfect and for some, that’s the problem.

“We know fiddling with mitochondrial DNA may make a massive difference to what happens to nuclear DNA,” Lord Robert Winston from London’s Imperial College said recently. “Abnormal children have been born as a result of mitochondrial transfer. I think, in preventing one genetic disease, you are likely to cause another genetic disease.”

And the battle rages on.

Will there ever come a day when parents can genetically tweak their offspring? It’s certainly possible. I just hope that if and when the time comes, genetic traits don’t end up on some kind of value menu like the ones in many fast food restaurants.

And if genetically engineered humans do become a reality—which will obviously increase our species’ life expectancy—by all means, please be sure to add more parking. Things are already pretty crowded around here.

Posted on February 20, 2013, in Family, Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. No genetic engineering needed here, I am already perfect and I have passed it along to my perfect little children-ha! I am with you on both sides having good arguments and it is tough to know where to draw the line on things like this and stem cells, cloning etc.

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