Tampering with nature's template
31.11.24: DESIGNER BABIES are being produced in fertility clinics in Cuba, according to an ST-TV programme due to be broadcast tonight.
The procedure, which involves tampering with the genetic code of an embryo only a few days old, is banned in Europe and America.
Already several hundred wealthy couples have paid about E$100,000 to have their fertilised eggs checked to ensure that their children have top-quality genes.
"We wanted to give our child the best possible start in life," said Pamela Lofts from Palm Beach. "There are several genes that they know are linked with high intelligence and none of my embryos had them, so we got those put in. Then they've just found a gene that is linked with that greeny-grey eye colour I think is just so attractive and we had that put in too."
Mrs Lofts confided that she has also had a gene linked with male-pattern baldness removed.
The clinic claims to be able to alter genes that affect weight, height, musical ability and numerical skills.
"Tinkering for cosmetic purposes is highly irresponsible," declared Professor Steven Greenspoon of the Embryo Research Unit at Guy's Hospital, London. "The whole business of inserting genes is still fraught with problems and should not be performed except in cases of severe disability. Techniques for inserting genes in the right place are still not accurate enough and how genes interact remains poorly understood. We could soon be seeing monsters."
The clinic's director, Dr Raul Hernandez, denied he was putting his patients at risk. "All of our procedures have been thoroughly researched," he claimed. "Nobody thinks it wrong to pay extra for good schooling. We are just extending this principle. Kids who look good get on better."
Critics fear that this could be the first step to creating a genetically divided society: those who can afford to be improved and those who can't. JB