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The phrase genetic engineering means a lot of different things to different people.

Some think of genetically modified crops that are designed to have better resistances and
nutritional value, some think of cartoon-style freakish laboratory tests gone wrong, and others
think of a future dystopia where those with the resources to afford genetic engineering are
stronger and smarter than the rest of the average human race. This third idea has been the subject
of much debate as genetics technology continues to improve. It has become such a common idea
that last year, when I applied for a scholarship for Boston University, one of the essay questions
asked me to describe my opinions on designer babies.
A designer baby, as the name suggests, is a child who is engineered at the genetic level
for certain traits. In theory, these traits could be as simple as hair or eye color, but they could
theoretically be complicated enough to ensure a genetically perfect child, with ideal physical
traits, a near-guarantee of no congenital diseases, and possibly even enhanced intelligence. All of
this technology would be in the very distant future; scientists cant even pinpoint with certainty
all of the genes related to the color of our eyes, let alone genes connected to intelligence or
physical strength. But what is already in place is a quick and easy way to determine the full
genome of the cell. There are already processes in place, as I discussed in my last blog, to test the
genes of unborn children. While crude, expectant parents could test the fetus and abort the child
until they produce one with the desired traits. In a slightly more elegant setup, couples could
have their gametes (sex cells) tested, and perform in vitro fertilization using only eggs and sperm
cells with the desired alleles (possible options for a gene such as blond or brown hair) to
guarantee a perfect child.
So if all this technology is just theoretical and certainly in the distant future, is it even
worth talking about now? Many would say no, and dismiss it as science fiction nonsense.

However, with the rate that our understanding of biological processes and genetics is increasing,
its impossible to know how far out this future is. And although a vast majority of people may
abhor this idea and vow to never participate in genetic engineering, there is a significant number
who would leap at the opportunity. And this is where the real ethical questions kick in. Do we
have the right, as a species, to edit our genome to the point where every baby born is genetically
perfect? Is it right for parents to be forced to roll the dice when they want a child instead of
ensuring that it will be healthy? How would our society change if there were no children with
mental diseases born, and would that be a good thing? These questions are for each individual
person to answer, and we may have to do so sooner than we would like.