Remember those giant vegetables in Woody Allen's Sleeper? They'll soon crop up on your local farm, along with five-ton cows and 12-foot-long pigs, according to this alarming report on genetic engineering by Fox (Inhumane Society, 1990, etc.). Fox observes that biotechnology—the business of gene splicing, which usually means mixing together the genes of different animals, including human beings—is ``the fastest growing industry in recorded history.'' It's also the most terrifying, if Fox's doomsday predictions bear fruit. For one thing, he claims, there's no control on current gene experiments and no way to predict their outcome. The genetic code for the AIDS virus has been implanted in mice; Fox believes that the virus may now mutate and become transmissible in saliva or urine. Other laboratory tomfoolery involves creating superplants; Fox's assessment is that ``we could end up with no trees.'' Furthermore, bioengineering is ``genetic imperialism'' and ``biological fascism.'' This assessment sounds realistic—especially when one hears about laboratory workers putting goat's heads on sheep's bodies through embryonic microsurgery, apparently just to see if it can be done, or engineering sheep that secrete insect repellent to produce the world's first mothproof wool. Fox's outrage comes both from the hubris in these experiments and from the animal suffering they cause. The villains are scientists, whose insistence on separating ethics and research Fox finds ``shocking''; he singles out some heavy hitters like DNA-decoder James Watson as especially culpable. Fox's relentless and impassioned attack collapses only when he offers alternatives: While his call for a federal bioethics council seems eminently reasonable, pleas for ``a fundamental change in worldview'' leading to ``a resacralization of nature'' are hopelessly vague and won't win the hearts and minds of many scientists. Eye-opening evidence that science fiction can indeed come true—and not always with happy results.
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