Once a life is lived, its genetic outcome is spent.
If a species has not taken advantage of the genetic opportunities presented to it, then that is a wasteful loss of potential. In a relentless battle for survival, to miss out on a resource that could prove beneficial might be considered as both negligent and irresponsible.
Such a failure to maximise our genetic output by not enabling such genes to multiply is a dereliction of our genetic duty. The consequences could be grave. Ultimately, it might even threaten the very survival of the species.
However, such lapses do occur. They might happen for a number of reasons:
- Individuals may simply fail to reproduce.
- Individuals may not maximise their reproductive output.
- Individuals may perish before being able to reproduce.
- Within an individual, given a prevailing environment, certain genetic qualities and strengths may not reveal themselves and thereby go undeveloped.
When this happens, genes are lost and their potential goes unrealised.
As we advance as a species, humanity will become increasingly aware of the possibilities of this untapped resource.
Currently, humanity is mainly concerned with other species, that – with changes to the environment – many of them are threatened with extinction. We are therefore largely focused on trying to secure their survival.
In the future, with advances in technology, we will begin to address our own genetic existence. If genetic mutation gives rise to a particularly desirable attribute, even if it is a one off, we will want to know how to preserve and foster that genetic characteristic. How do we save it? How do we make use of it? How do we make that a part of humanity as a whole?
We will also become more concerned with the loss of genes within the human entity. We will not want to lose genetic traits that we previously possessed. They may be useful in the future. How do we therefore safeguard our genetic heritage? Can we do anything to prevent this genetic loss? How can we take more control over the preservation process? What can we do to better secure humanity’s survival?
In order to prevent these wasteful genetic losses we may at some point seek to build a bank of genes. This will be a storage facility where we can safely and securely hold a stock of genes that – should we want or need to – we can make withdrawals from.
A Genetic Bank would give us access to resources which may be beneficial for us in our ever-changing, ever-challenging battle with Nature – savings that we can call upon for that worrisome rainy day.
Over the last couple of decades Kew Gardens has established the Millennium Seed Bank where it stores plant seeds from across the world, conserving them for the future. It means that, should a plant become extinct in the wild, then it is possible, by germinating these saved seeds to reintroduce the plant.
It also means that plants which may have future food or medical benefits are not lost.
A Genetic Bank would operate in a similar manner, saving threatened genes from extinction. Who knows whether or not such genes – singularly or when combined with others – might be of use to us in the future?
Banking deposits would be received from:
- Individuals who choose or are unable to reproduce. Rather than losing out on their genetic potential, those unique genes that they have can be extrapolated and saved. By securing their genes it means that they are still in the genetic game. Their genes will survive.
- As we have evolved, we have lost certain genes because they have not been beneficial in the prevailing environment. That does not mean that they might not be of future value. As environments change – and they are changing increasingly rapidly – with our genes being unable to keep pace with such change, those genes that are at threat can be saved.
- We will increasingly tap into the genetic assets of other species. If another species has a quality that we might find beneficial we could genetically isolate it and then consider implanting it into our own being. This would massively increase the human potential and offer new directions for us to evolutionarily progress in.
- Certain genetic mutations may make a fleeting appearance in a reproductive product. Unable to survive they may be lost within a single generation. If individuals were found to have unique genes, those genes may be harvested to ensure their future survival and proliferation.
By involving ourselves in the management of genetic reproduction, we can massively speed up the evolutionary process. It means that in order to make advances, humanity does not have to wait for critical mass points to be achieved before certain genetic qualities become widespread.
Scientifically and ethically, we may be concerned that by pursuing this genetic engineering course, we are involving ourselves in something that we have little knowledge about. But, rightly or wrongly, this progression is inevitable. We already practice such procedures with plants and animals. Those procedures will creep into human reproduction, driven by the attractiveness of the benefits attainable.
- Helping us to stay healthy and live longer.
- Helping us to look after our environment more.
- Helping us to better resource the world and thereby eliminate poverty.
Genetic engineering offers the attainment of great ideals and alluring ambitions. We will undoubtedly be drawn towards it. Why would we want to miss out on opportunities that could better our futures?
Yes we may concern ourselves with the bank’s investment policies, with its ownership and management and with its authority and control within society but, when faced with an existentialist proposition, we may have no alternative but to embark on this action.
Given that a Genetic Bank would save every aspect of our human lifeform it would have substantial appeal. It would be a means of safeguarding our future. It will look to –wherever possible – invest in our human entity, to make us better suited for the environmental challenges we face.