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The last decade has witnessed the genetic modification of yeast to generate morphine from sugar water and have discovered human DNA mutation underlying everything from schizophrenia and bowel cancer, to smoking behaviour and violent criminality. Advances in genetics are leading us to a future where we can manipulate hereditary traits with the same ease with which we currently mold plastic or transmit electric current; we are truly living on the brink of a revolutionary moment.
The panel, “Genetics: Life hacked” which featured panellists Professor Abed Chaudhury and Professor Sanjeev Jain, and moderated by Garga Chatterjee, saw the three experts dwelling on a wide ranging discussion on the long term ethical implications of biotechnology and genetic modification.
A psychiatrist by profession, Professor Sanjeev Jain asserted, “Despite the many advancements, there are a lot of questions that are left unanswered. I cannot foretell what will happen in the future; no one can. It is not possible to decide on whether the change will be positive or not, or determine who is to control it.”
When the controversial issue of genetic modification came up, Professor Abed Chaudhury complained, “The arguments regarding GMO tend to arise from ethical and religious beliefs and perspectives. A lot of these arguments do not even have any scientific reasoning behind. In order to work with genes, we should construct an acceptable viewpoint that is politically correct in terms of information.”