The Front

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We love technology. Can’t get enough of it. So why do we draw the line at cloning? Words: David Robertson

t some point towards the end of this year. if the claims of a maverick

Italian scientist are to believed. the first cloned human being will be

born. For good or ill. it will be a momentous day on the calendar of human achievement. But genetic technologies are an issue guaranteed to raise public temperatures like nothing else. and a political potato so hot that most western governments have legislated to strictly control research.

Is this the right attitude? Why don’t we embrace these technologies the way we have. say. computers or mobile phones‘.’ There are a few reasons. Some of the resistance comes from green activists. worried about the effect upon the ecosystem were modified plants to escape into the wild: for example. the so-called ‘Terminator' seeds that grow into adult plants that cannot reproduce. forcing the farmer to btry seed year after year.

A legitimate concern. indeed. but one that should be addressed to the companies concerned and their apparent lack of moral responsibility. The techniques could as easily be used to increase yield or enhance the nutritional qualities of the plants. Technology itself

knows no right or wrong. so blame must knows no r'ght be down to those who wield it.

Monsanto. which was responsible for

Terminator seeds. was able to develop blame mUSt be them because we spent millions of pounds down to those on its other products: Nutrasweet. for who

example. Monsanto would get the message very quickly if no one bought Diet Coke any more; but vanity and an insatiable sweet tooth denies such a possibility.

Every innovation can be used to positive or negative ends. and perhaps that is the problem. Many inventions revolutionised life in the 20th century. such as motorcars and nuclear power. Unfortunately. there was also global warming and the bomb. Perhaps we now think the responsibility is too great. Maybe. after the nightmare of the 20th century. we believe we shouldn‘t play God.

But this populist reaction does not hold water. We don‘t consider ourselves to be playing God when we operate to remove a tumour or anaesthetise a woman in labour. even though cancer and pain are His handiwork. We were not created (if created we were) with a pencil in place of our index linger: do we play God when we write'.’

The march of progress is relentless: human cloning will happen whether it is condoned by the scientific community and the public or not. Fear and legislation will not prevent this and so the challenge is to ensure that the

5 Birmingham Royal Ballet

Dance Bustin'! Cowin' great! This formidable ballet troupe will even be performing their version of the old Old Spice adverts. See preview, page 60. Festival Theatre, Edinburgh.

6 Sublime

Clubs Last one ever. A chance to shed a tear for the passing of this techno trance night on its seventh birthday. Honeycomb, Edinburgh.

7 Simon Starling

Art The wonder boy’s first major solo show in Scotland, expect more cyclical conceptualism as he reworks the textile prints of Josef Franke with hand chopped tropical trees from Trinidad. See preview, page 86. BOA, Dundee.

8 Janice Galloway

Books Clara is a book of gargantuan ambition and achievement. Go on shove it in your holiday suitcase. See review, page 102. Jonathan Cape.

9 Jeremy Hardy Comedy The original politically aware comedian is back with a live show after years spent wallowing deep in the i bowels of Broadcasting House. See preview page 67. Traverse Theatre,

_ . . _ . . . . Edinburgh. technology is used to positive ends: the eradication ol diseases that kill

millions. plentiful limbs and organs for transplant. perhaps even the dramatic

extension of life. It is a responsibility that lies with its: not just the scientists. 10 The Jab

TV Short but very funny comedy show from the man who stole all Bill Hicks' best gags. See review, page 112. BBC Choice.

btit all of us. the consumers. We wield the power now. So let‘s make science work for us. not the multinationals.

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10 THE LIST 2’, _, J. .r'.. 7.82