Sunday, September 21, 2003

Filthy Bosche at It Again?

Here's an interesting item from the Deutsche Welle that I found via John Ray's on-line clearing house for batty ideas:

Want to design a baby or take a peek into your genetic future? Customers at a store in Bremen were more than willing to do so, and hardly anyone questioned the company's ethics, much to the dismay of the organizers.

Nestled inconspicuously between boutiques and snackbars in downtown Bremen is a new store called "chromosoma." The shop with its ultra-cool interior opened just recently and promises to offer its customers something they won't get at a run-of-the-mill department store, namely, the possibility for a complete genetic make-over.

Curious passers-by who venture inside the shop can explore a range of six products and services such as "book-a-baby," which allows women to choose precisely when they wish to start a pregnancy, as well as selecting their baby's genetic traits, and "re-set," which offers customers the opportunity to store their genetic information with a view to human cloning. The store also provides a service it calls "gen-ex," which destroys human genetic footprints - the skin particles, hair and saliva that contain someone's entire genetic code. The product is designed to prevent involuntary assessment and storage of genetic material - information which could conceivably be misused by employers and insurance companies, for example.

Sound a little dubious or ethically questionable to offer genetic designing to the paying public? Well, that's the point of the world's first DNA store.

Chromosoma is in fact not a shop at all, but rather a "field-study" project organized by the Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung, or Federal Center for Political Education, in the run-up to its congress on genetic research from 15 - 17 September in Bremen.

The article goes on to note that:

So far the reality is a far cry from the type of products outlined in the chromosoma catalogue. For now, many of the products displayed in the Bremen store clash with current legislation, such as stringent embryo protection laws.

Read the rest of the report and you get some indication of why the organisers of "chromosoma" were a little dismayed by its public reception. Still that hasn't stopped Byron Scott at Slings and Arrows from concluding that the whole thing is, in its own sinister way, typically German:

... they couldn't do it by killing off the un-wanted elements of their society, so those perfectionist Germans are now well on their way to marketing designer genetics - and the people are eating it up

It's possible that some of the good burghers of Bremen who visited "chromosoma" might feel a little disgruntled at having been taken in by yet another bunch of ratbag leftie social researchers. Especially any of the women who might have been interested in designer babies. Perhaps Bremen will be the city where the US' Repository for Germinal Choice sets up its first overseas franchise; it looks like there's at least one corner of Germany where they'll find a ready market for their services.

Update (Cheap Shot Draws Return Fire): Thanks to John Ray (and Heinz in the comments thread) for bring the mispelling of "boche" to my attention. Obviously I should have been a little more attentive when I was reading W E Johns as a boy. No comment from either on the substantive issue in this post: that Bremen's chromosoma was a hoax (however well-intentioned), while the Repository for Germinal Choice is all too real.

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