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“Don’t explain why it can’t be done. Discover how it can be done”. Wait a minute. Should it be done at all? September 27, 2009

Posted by Tony Mignot in As The Future Catches You.
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“The future is catching us”, is a very worthy piece of reading. Its author Juan Enriquez has done an amazing work gathering data that stretches across millennia and presenting it in a pleasant non intimidating manner, using creative fonts and layouts to educate the reader and support his view.

The world is changing tremendously, whether we like it or not. We now live in a knowledge-based world dominated by digital information and genomics. According to the author, if you don’t export knowledge, you don’t get rich. Therefore, the ability to innovate is the most valuable asset and education is the key to success.

J.Enriquez makes a good case convincing the reader that genomics is the way to go. Technically, manipulating genes is nothing more than decoding/encoding information. Millions of people are already doing this everyday when they send an email or download a file over the internet. We should all embrace genomics as the next “big thing”. It’s not a matter of whether it can be done, but how it can be done. Hence the need for more educated people.

The author envisions genetically modified food that will serve as drugs, or mosquitoes turned into flying needles that will inoculate people against diseases. He claims that doctors will as a consequence focus much more on prevention in the future, just like dentists do today.

For the faint hearted that is reluctant playing sorcerer’s apprentice, he argues that we’ve always been “domesticating” nature in a way or another – natural dogs are wolves after all.

But J.Enriquez also admits being concerned about the case of Europe where genetically modified organisms are prohibited. To him, Europeans are missing the obvious. They will eventually be forced to either close their borders and will end up being isolated from the rest of the world, or to change their point of view. According to his reasoning, more education should help Europeans toe the line.

But wait a minute. People are pretty well educated in Europe. J.Enriquez must be missing something…

I personally would argue that because they are educated, Europeans know enough to know that they don’t know enough about GMOs. It seems to me that what Enriquez is missing is the precautionary principle, that is a compulsory principle of law in Europe. Avoiding a problem is better than trying to fix it. Sounds familiar? Think about your dentist again.

Enriquez goes into details explaining that genomics can be done, how it can be done, and what it would enable. However, he never questions whether or not it should be done at all.

We may be facing one of the most dramatic revolutions in human history. It will be our responsibility and that of our children to shape the world we want to live in. While the book serves well as an introduction to the biotech industry, it shouldn’t be considered a panacea. More debate is needed to question the ethical issues related to genomics.

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