“The embryos I was looking at had been designed to labor in uranium tunnels under the Yellow Sea. Their saucerlike eyes were genomed for darkness. In fact, they go insane if xposed to brite unfiltered daylite.” –pg 324, Cloud Atlas*

Genetically modified clones, or “fabricants” are featured prominently in Cloud Atlas, a film adapted from the David Mitchell novel of the same name. Popular culture has historically played a role in enticing the collective imagination when it comes to human cloning and, to a lesser extent, genetic modification. Cloud Atlas is no different. But is there any truth to the possibility of human clones and genetic modification?

“The scenario of multiple, identical copies of people is something that the media tend to latch on to, while missing [the technology’s] real potential, i.e. genetic modification,” Kevin Smith, a bioethicist at Abertay University in the UK, told TechNewsDaily. “Nevertheless, in science fiction the notion of identical clones does occur, and I cannot rule it out on technical grounds.”

While the first instances of human genetic modification (using a process called cytoplasmic transfer) seem to date back to 2001—even earlier by some reports—and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) attempted to stop further research into cytoplasmic transfer in 2001, the practice still exists in varying forms. For example, the creation of a 3-parent embryo, referenced in a previous post, uses a nuclear transfer process not dissimilar from cytoplasmic transfer.

Why do you think there are such strong opinions, both for and against human gene modification? What are your thoughts on the subject?

*misspellings sic