Translated from GegenStandpunkt 3-01
Yet again: not a case of a “curse or blessing of research”
The science of genes, its capitalist use value, and the latest tribulations of Western morality
“Genetic engineering” – one hears – arouses in many modern people parallel “hopes” and “fears.” Whatever they are, they are wrong in any case. Because what really determines the lives of “all of us,” destroys hopes, and then makes some fears not come true after all, is once and for all not the progress of scientific knowledge, neither in its foundational nor in its technological departments, but the ensemble of purposes ruling society. These determine, with a lawfulness that is not at all natural, the uses that are made of, among other things, correct theory and newly developed technical skills.
With genetic research, biology completes its progress from the development and systematization of general ideas about its subject matter and all sorts of teleological speculations about “driving forces” of “life” to the science of biochemical laws governing the self-organization, metabolism, reproduction, and diversification of organisms. Generations of scientists first postulated more than proved, then gradually clarified anyway – out of medical interest, especially in humans and their metabolism – that the much admired fitness of living things to purposes, in their construction as well as self-preservation and reproduction processes, is not the result of a purpose-setting and designing intelligence – or any kind of mysterious equivalent – in nature, but of a chemically induced concatenantion of combinations and reactions between organic molecules, selected, and “optimized” by internal and external functional and existing conditions. To exhaustively discover and show how a cell functions and how it develops from a fertilized zygote into a finished organism, which determinants are at work there and which “uncertainties” are contained in the programmed self-development of an organism – up to its final self-destruction – so that in the midst of a synthesis proceeding according to natural laws, individual modifications are an everyday event, mutations take place in the genome, even new species of living beings can come into existence, and there can be an aimed at and successful intervention into the reproduction schema of an organism in the sense of a consciously set purpose: This is the program of modern bioscience.
Incidentally, it’s true for this discipline – as for every natural science – that it’s always good for the envisaged scientific explanation of biological structures and processes to already know something at the beginning of a life process or an intervention about the possible consequences and results; however, this practical benefit is not the same as the scientific explanation itself; and it does not coincide with the benefit that the relevant social interests have in mind for the practical use of the knowledge of natural scientists. In this respect, genetic researchers are by no means responsible for everything that resourceful businessmen know how to make out of their research results; and they can be held no more responsible for the state which holds its protective hand over capitalist business life than for the follies and moral cynicisms with which the achievements of their discipline find acceptance in the moral superstructure of their nation. Their very own achievement, however, is the calculating expert-naivety with which they voluntarily and approvingly serve the purposes of their financiers and clients, which are not really hidden from them either.
Genetic engineering sets the results of genetic research theoretically into relation with practical interests in the operation and outcome of biological processes and invents methods and instruments for manipulative interventions in intriguing biochemical events as defined by particular purposes. This branch of research has made itself popular with the public because its representatives basically want nothing else to be noticed about the interests they wish to serve other than purely noble intentions that enrich humanity; they promise them, often enough against their better knowledge and consciously for the purpose of acquiring research funds, a perfect mastery of biological matter such as is partly still a long way off according to the state of research, partly through the state of research attained by now being excluded at least until further notice. This calculating self-advertisement makes the achievements that genetic engineering already has to show or is working on neither wrong nor inapplicable, but it throws a revealing light on the unscrupulousness with which the protagonists of this science, in their zeal for service, benevolently abstract from the interests they are serving – apparently any financier is fine with them – as well as on the interest to be served: Obviously, for the sake of its benefit, all means are justified.
The “bio”-industry, from the medical and agricultural sectors in particular, which makes use of genetic engineering achievements and promotes the relevant research, has found a use value in it that is fundamentally superior to nature, science, and technology and especially to any physical benefit that can be brought about with it. It therefore does not depend on the fact that a real medical, nutritional, or other use value has been correctly determined from the available research results and that the object has been understood well enough to be safe from undesired effects of its use or at least to be able to calculate them reliably, but vice versa, makes the determination of such objective use values and assessments of the consequences of using them dependent on itself: It is about the money to be earned with genetic engineering. Because this is what the entrepreneurial spirit which dominates the global market economy has immediately discerned from the honest results and the calculating self-promotions of modern life science as its true and actual, namely economic, promise: a whole new type of business item beckons. The research community’s achievements as well as promises are appreciated by the managers of the interest that dictates the economic life process of the globe as a means to open a new front in the struggle for the purchasing power of the global society.
This assessment – according to a market analysis that weighs all commercial opportunities and risks down to the last detail – is generally so positive that the companies already involved in the sector are diverting a great deal of capital to the new sphere and stock market speculation is already rushing into a new field of activity. In particular, speculative business interests specify the practical questions to be asked by the willing researcher, who can expect material resources and personal incentives for answering, but also the limits that an interest in unbiased research reaches: The applications that science extracts from the genome must be marketable, that’s the main thing; they are ready for the market as soon as money can be made with them, regardless of whether the research community, according to its immanently scientific point of view, has otherwise already finished with its object and at least theoretically gotten somewhat complete control over its functional conditions and effects. The long established capitalist achievement of appropriately distinguishing between commercially exploitable “main” and, for its sake, negligible “side” effects is applied on a grand scale.
In their “classic’ biotechnology, researchers have already achieved some useful and money-making applications without intervening in the genetic material. They methodically regulate the growth and reproduction of bacteria, molds, and other microbes and impose a cellular metabolism on them that – along the lines of the well-known alcohol fermentation – allows them to secrete usable intermediate and end products from their metabolism in large quantities. The fact that these simplest of living organisms prove to be not very bulky when used as incubators for useful substances is due to the simple fact that they are by nature no different, their organism – cell growth and breeding – coincides with the metabolic rate and chemical transformation processes in the cell. After a suitable mass cultivation of protozoa that have been made productive, microbially produced chemicals and proteins can be obtained which are commercially interesting as, for example, fat reducing enzymes and flavor-enhancing amino acids, enriching the capitalist assemblage of commodities with almost real tasting foods and detergents. Compared to established chemical production processes, however, only a niche existence is reserved for the useful application of productive microbes. According to capitalist experts, the business prospects of this department of biotechnology are less in the field of “mass chemicals,” “which is characterized by fierce competition with chemical synthesis products.” Cellular incubators can’t compete with the clout of chemical production, which today is petrochemistry; their “economic potential” lies on the side of so-called “specialty chemicals,” which can be produced by chemical synthesis only with difficulty or at great expense or not at all, are usually needed only in small quantities, but are often of very “high value.” The fact that Thiobacillus ferrooxidans can leach the last remnants of metal-containing exchange value out of mine tailings, and that another bacterium accepts carcinogenic benzene as a nutrient and thus recommends itself for use in the up-and-coming industry of landfill remediation, is fine, but still limits the business application range of the small omnivores.
In contrast, the prospects of using “genetically modified organisms” to serve profit in a capitalist sphere of production such as industrial agriculture are quite different: By transferring new traits to the plant and animal life used in capitalism, it is possible to accelerate the turnover rate of capital engaged in agriculture through genetic engineering, reduce its production costs, and increase yields. Corn and rapeseed can be made resistant to pest infestation and genetically engineered to be so tolerant of specific herbicides that the seed multinational also earns money from its monopoly on the only spray chemical “tolerated” by the plants; crops with genetically engineered quality changes, with built-in ripening delays, with self-fertilization and site adaptation, with virus resistance, altered nutritional values, and even plants that produce vaccines are in part already being exploited for business purposes, and in some cases will definitely become so in the near future. The necessary means and methods of this “genetic engineering” – starting with the gene transport medium and selection procedure and ending with the cloning of the transgenic plant target and its breeding – have now in any case been optimized and standardized, and with that you can then get started. For example, the cell wall of corn and rice is deliberately bombarded with so-called “gene guns” and penetrated with the help of gold beads to which the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxin gene is attached, which is supposed to code for a pesticide – whether and at what point it is incorporated into the plant genome is left to chance, as are many other things. But this is in the nature of things and in this respect is no objection to the use of technical progress. After all, the capitalist interest in useful services can advance without having to fully understand and control a “positional effect with its effects” or other conditions: In this case, additionally introduced markers such as antibiotic resistance genes are helpful, which can be used later to find out whether the gene transfer has worked. The “screening” necessary for this, the screening for the transgenic “target” and the other stages of transgenic seed development are now sufficiently accelerated and cost-efficient that the commercial release of genetically manipulated organisms does not have to fail because of their price.
Of course, there is no lack of accompanying research on, for example, the question of whether “transgenic maize lines have a negative effect on non-target organisms.” After all, the responsible safety commissions know that when Bt corn is released, its toxic genetic material is also released quite irrevocably and cannot be easily collected again. So federal research institutes are looking into the transmission pathways to humans and nature – not only because of “possible health and ecological risks,” but also because of the commercially weighty question of whether and with what “margin of safety” the agricultural property of farmers can be separated to some extent from the genetically modified private property of the competitors. The spread of genetically modified organisms through seeds, pollen, bacteria and higher animals is being studied, as is the competitiveness of the new genetic material in nature; the “capacity for cross-pollination” and “hybridization” with related weeds and wild plants is being studied and investigated in ongoing field trials, as is the “allergenic potential” that enters the food through the novel proteins; even the “horizontal gene transfer” of antibiotic resistance into the intestinal bacteria of humans is not being forgotten. It is therefore fairly certain that a number of things are conceivable; it is assumed that the worst does not have to be expected in every case: According to all the rules of probability, the Central Commission for Biological Safety (ZKBS) calculates the “risk of transmission”; the result is a sufficiently low number in relation to the reproduction rate of the modified microbes; and thus, according to the Gaussian normal distribution of human judgment, it is confirmed that such an extremely rare event weighs much more lightly than the much more probable monetary returns resulting from the application of genetic engineering progress. Especially since it should also be kept in mind that allergies and resistance to the antibiotics used as markers “are already widespread” anyway. Therefore, with the careful weighing of all the pros and cons, the following logic is only logical: “Transgenic Bt maize only causes harm if it is equally harmful or more harmful than conventional pesticides. Finally, since the probability is small that Bt corn will be more harmful to non-target organisms than chemical pesticides, the risk is also small.” (Opinion of the “Scientific Committee on Plants” on the invocation by Austria)
The fact that European countries have not yet decided to release the capitalistically profitable use of herbicide- and insect-resistant genetic material is not only due to the public health obligations mentioned in the next point. In this country, people are not yet ready to take a chance on the world market for transgenic plant products which is dominated by the USA. So competition can only be allowed if it can be won: For the time being, there is a moratorium on European cultivation – while at the same time promoting the development of next-generation transgenic seeds. Until this is completed, the world market for first-generation “green genetic engineering” products for America’s farmers will remain limited to their own country – and the WTO agenda will retain a European-American bone of contention.
As far as the second department of the agricultural use of genes is concerned: the art of genetically engineering higher organisms such as feathered cattle and pigs to produce the necessary growth hormones intracellularly and, incidentally, to make themselves resistant to the cost-driven diseases of profitable factory farming and cage raising: There the nature of livestock is still a little too resistant to simply express the capitalistically useful characteristic with the changed genes and otherwise leave everything as it is as far as the organism and its biological functions are concerned. Research is still needed to clarify why cattle usually develop the harmful side effect as the main effect, or why they simply do not accept the microinjected new genes and prefer to perish immediately as fertilized germ cells rather than later from the “uncontrolled” gene expression of growth hormones in the adult cells.
Research, on the other hand, has not failed to produce techniques and skills that can be put to promising commercial use in the pharmaceutical industry. The use of genetic engineering for the global business of pharmaceutical companies in the fight against cancer, cardiovascular diseases, allergies and Alzheimer’s has so far been focused primarily on the production of “high value” active ingredients that only need to be available in relatively small quantities for drugs in human medicine and that – if at all – could at best be isolated at great expense from the blood or tissue of humans and animals. The biotechnological production of such valuable therapeutic proteins as interferon, human insulin, and EPO from genetically modified E. coli bacteria or mammalian cell lines has thus provided pharmaceutical “blockbusters” to the multinationals of global healing with the drugs based on them, which quite inevitably guarantee a bombshell business. However, the breakthrough into an unbeatable business tool, which is generally believed to open “the door to a golden future” for the pharmaceutical industry, was only achieved by biotechnology with its success in sequencing the “blueprint of life”: “A paradigm shift is taking place in the research and production of new drugs. The chemical paradigm is being replaced by a biotechnological one: a large number of new sites of action for drugs can be identified from global genome sequencing activities. With the help of new, highly efficient screening systems, drug candidates can be screened much more quickly for positive effects...” (BmBuF) So this is what the upheaval of the market-produced art of healing, which owes its existence to research on the human genome, boils down to: the “product pipeline,” with which pharmaceutical companies achieve their business-boosting turnover, needs constant replenishment because patents are constantly expiring and with them the main economic effect of the drugs, namely that on the company’s profits. Every year, at least two new active ingredients want to be brought to market, which means a tenfold increase in the need for new “targets” according to the current failure rate. The race against the competition for this moral wear and tear on such wickedly expensive drugs whose “exclusive time of use” – as the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research also knows – is “constantly decreasing” anyway as a result of the intensity of competition in the industry, has to be won. And how? By speeding up the process, by searching all the genomic databases in the world to produce a large number of “genetic malfunctions,” i.e. patentable active ingredient targets, and by tracking down suitable active ingredients in other chemical databases, thus helping to reduce the capital advance for the “long development path” from drugs to profit.
In the short term, people were disappointed that the human genome projects estimated the number of human genes at “only” 30,000 – not at all because homo sapiens is so close to the fruit fly and the worm. But because so few of these genes, at most “3000 could be suitable as worthwhile targets for the development of drugs” (Science Vol. 291, 2001). In the meantime, the pharmaceutical industry can breathe a sigh of relief again because its business object remains intact in any case: “Not genes, but the interaction of the proteins made from them are the key to the body. Between 100,000 and 250,000 proteins could be created from genes. This makes things more difficult. Protein seekers are now in demand.” (Association of Research-based Pharmaceutical Companies) And one of these results oriented research colleagues then clarifies the determining purpose and content of the interest in getting hold of this ‘key to the body’ at all costs. What immediately interests him in the scientific progress – “the genetic dogma of Francis Crick, a gene, a protein or DNA makes RNA, RNA makes a protein with a biological function, so it no longer applies in the apodictic form – is what then remains of the hoped-for attack sites for new drugs. And lo and behold, the achievements of protein research guarantee him that the human genome will remain a huge free space of potentially profitable exploitation for the decisive business interests: This gives hope to many companies since it means that the number of possible targets for drug or diagnostic development will remain much larger and make further investments seem promising.” (Deutsches Ärzteblatt, issue 31/32, 2001) Even if knowledge of genetic material is only just beginning: humans are no longer a mystery for the business prospects of the pharmaceutical industry. Considered under the auspices of its capitalistic usability, the “highly complicated human organism” turns out to be a multiplication task for elementary school students: four to five genes, which are “assumed” to be responsible for each of the 100 to 150 diseases that are “of interest to the pharmaceutical industry or the health care system” – that, for an educated doctor of medicine, is the decisive difference between these diseases and those that kill millions in Africa and elsewhere: because money is not made by curing them, people continue to die of malaria there! – make exactly a sum of “5,000 to 10,000 potentially interesting, economically significant gene products” (ibid.), thus in any case already healthy balance sheets.
The governments of all major national capital locations around the globe share the assessment of their practicing experts on profitable business and support the emergence of the new business sphere that promises so much competitive success on the world market and also has a national impact. Firstly, with national budget funds which flow into those departments of genetic research and technology that are necessary for global market leadership on the one hand and on the other hand are – still – too far away from profitable application for cautious speculators to give the necessary advance for it. The other departments, which already seem to be profitable, are served with a further developed patent law, which reserves not only certain products and processes, but also biochemically determining genome sections whose mode of action and function for the entire organism need not yet be completely determined, to the discoverer for a certain time for the purpose of commercial exploitation. In this way, the legal situation very appropriately takes into account the relationship, typical for the new industry, between the anticipatory capitalist interest in exploitation and the lagging scientific state of knowledge. The third area in which the state takes action concerns the damage and risks that inevitably arise from this relationship: Limits are set and considerations imposed on the unscrupulousness of the capitalist industry which is accepted as a self-evident side effect and desired as a main effect, with a view to other endangered legal interests. In their deliberations in this regard, the political leaders are guided by their overriding national interest in not giving competing capital locations a competitive advantage in the struggle for the new branch of industry with a great commercial future. Because some large-scale experiments nevertheless seem too explosive for their own national bodies, states in the impoverished “Third World” sometimes unexpectedly enjoy participation in scientifically groundbreaking “field trials.” Fourthly and finally, states of imperialist rank and weight have discovered for themselves another very special benefit of genetic research and technology: they see to it that the progress of knowledge also benefits the weapons they keep ready in their arsenals for biological warfare in case of emergency.
Because big business can be done with genes and there is possibly even more and even bigger business that can be done, molecular biology enjoys a very interested appreciation on the part of the state: It is generally believed that this is a technology of the future. As the name suggests, this appreciation only to a limited degree takes into account the extent of business already being done with genetic engineering. Everything that is already underway in the profitable use of cell nuclei and microorganisms or that looks like it will soon be “feasible” attaches itself to the speculation that biotechnology in general is the weapon that will ensure resounding success in the competition on the world market: Firstly, because it is new and secondly, because it is far from being ready, it is already good for any number of promising expectations of earning a great deal of money in new and enormously growing markets. It makes little difference that the scope and nature of these gigantic “growth potentials” are not yet foreseeable. In any case, they must be occupied – if only because all other competing nations find the advances in biology equally interesting: When it comes to the ambitious ideal of monopolizing a technology that has been found to be decisive for competition, Germany cannot and will not leave the field to the USA, Great Britain and others – and vice versa.
To achieve this ideal, all of the competing states are becoming active and committed to the business success of their pharmaceutical companies: with monetary “research funds” for public institutions as well as for private companies, they sponsor technical progress and step in where financial capitalists are still too cautious due to their return expectations, where the mass of privately invested risk capital leaves much to be desired, or where the investment is not made at all. Because the project of taking over the entire world market with a biotechnology that has not yet been fully researched and mastered is very ambitious in every respect and therefore, above all, expensive, the handful of countries that expect to do big business in the future have agreed on a certain degree of cooperation in genetic research for the time being. The cooperation between the U.S. and Europe in the human genome project is aimed at sharing in the research progress of competitors and thereby reducing the financial burden of their own efforts – admittedly, at the price of a corresponding trade-off with the partners. Cooperation is the way, victory over the competitor is the goal, but achieving it also raises considerable need for government regulation elsewhere.
The guardians of capitalist locations take account the fact that, like the findings of natural science itself, their practical application is subordinated to the interests of private property and has to prove itself as its means: With their patent law, they ensure that general knowledge can be used in a temporarily exclusive manner, that an inventive achievement with commercial benefits is declared to be the property of its originator who can then use his knowledge in the same way as the rest of his monetary property: as a lever to increase his money. This proven custom of compensating enterprising businessmen for their efforts to produce profitable technical processes and devices by means of their legally protected exclusive use must be adapted to the fact that, in the case of genetic engineering, another custom, also well established in patent law, of distinguishing between – non-patentable – discoveries and – patentable – inventions, is proving to be very counterproductive: The delusion, which is especially effective in this branch of research, of taking scientific research and the economic use of research results as good as one and the same thing, levels this dividing line that has existed until now. And where speculation on the commercial use of a piece of nature insists that the copyright on all possible future inventive applications be secured, the legislator does not need to be asked twice. Here, too, he makes himself the patron of technical progress which serves profit and supplements the contradiction of an “intellectual property” with the paradox of a “substance patent” which treats the identification of a gene, i.e. a natural substance, as an industrial invention, i.e. views it as patentable. And to ensure that speculation on profitable uses of organic substances does not replace actual exploitable applications, the new Biopatent Act requires that the gold rush in the laboratories at least describe one commercially exploitable application of a gene in the application form that seems halfway plausible – the gene is then patented, not the application: “A patent (on the gene) is only granted if the applicant describes the function of the gene segment and also its commercial applicability. General statements on commercial applicability, such as the wording ‘for medical purposes,’ are therefore not sufficient.” (FAZ, 6.21.01) The granted right to the overall commercial exploitation of a gene must not, admittedly, impede the use of a potential application that has been found, so that constructive critics of state legislation are urging that even “individual applications” must enjoy monopoly protection under patent law. No matter how the official provision for the profitable use of the knowledge of the inner life of the cell will turn out: The national patent guardians will agree if only because they work for the same interest. The decision of property issues in research and thinking aims at growth, and – here as everywhere else – against others. At least one European, or even better, one international patent law is needed so that German biotechnology can occupy the world market with patent protection and degrade the competition to licensees: “In the meantime, an industrial race for the extraction and dissemination of genetic information has begun. (...) The motives of the German government to implement the bio-patent directive as soon as possible are obvious: German and European companies are increasingly shifting their research and development activities overseas.” (FAZ, 6.21.01)
The paths taken by scientific progress under state supervision entail certain risks. The humans who carry on in their phenotypical form as participants in a market economy are less involved in this progress in the role of beneficiaries. They are intended as a means, insofar as they, as producers and inventive helpers, have to provide for the black balance sheets of the biotechnology corporations, and as objects, insofar as they enjoy the intended and unintended effects of the business with genetic engineering as consumers or mere inhabitants of the capitalist location. And as these means and objects, they again enjoy special state protection in the form of the legal regulations to which the scientific and commercial experimentation with genetic material must be subject according to the will of the state.
On the one hand, it is nothing new that the state keeps an eye on the health integrity of its people. The fact that humanity is intended to be a carrier of performance and material of wear and tear in this economy is not only foreseen by the business world, but also by the state. Its political care is therefore directed at looking after the economic impairment of public health in such a way that the living inventory of its class society is not damaged in the rights with which it has endowed it. Its citizens perform their social service to property as persons who enjoy legal protection as such and in all that they may ascribe to themselves as their inviolable rights; this legal status is the very first prerequisite for all useful services to which they are then allowed to compete within the framework of the legally settled competition of property owners; and in this status, they are mercilessly protected by their state, which is well aware of all forms and effects of the productive wear and tear of its people: Its guidelines for a tolerable dose of radioactivity, for example, and legally fixed maximum threshold limit values of exposure to harmful substances regulate the possible collisions between the sacred legal goods of person and property, thus ensuring a politically acceptable relationship between wear and tear on health and economic success – and precisely because the question of who or what is actually healthy in this country is decided less by the constitution of the human organism than by the ministerial officials of the constitutional health care system.
The same is true of genetic engineering. The health policy management of the people’s body also takes effect here. The universally accepted viewpoint of this branch of research dictates that applications with business potential should be put on the market and into the patent offices as quickly as possible and without excessive risk aversion. It is admittedly not possible to do more than guess what the consequences might be if, for example, a genetically modified soy variety were to spread among related wild species of the crop. One thing we can be absolutely sure of is that an overgrowth of herbicide-resistant weeds in the country is always within the realm of possibility, and with it any number of property losses for owners – but how these can be ruled out is just as uncertain as the consequences that the consumption of genetically modified products might have for people’s well-being. Thus, as incomplete as the knowledge of the matter itself is, as inadequate is the knowledge of its harmful effects – if one disregards the known impairments that disappear under the heading of side effects in the small print of the biotechnological package inserts. In accordance with this state of affairs, the state’s concern for public health, in contrast to the containment of productive wear and tear taken care of by the producers of industry and energy, does not simply revolve around limitations on known damages to life, limb, and nature. On the one hand, the protection of humans and nature which is indicated here consists in keeping the application of genetically modified microorganisms under lock as much as possible where research and commerce are experimenting with genes: A genetic engineering law regulates how the construction and operation of the corresponding facilities must take place as a “closed system,” i.e. in such a way that in particularly sensitive cases as little as possible escapes uncontrolled from pressure chambers and safety locks into the system environment – other cases, in which the all-clear can be given on the basis of previous experience, are then taken into account by the law in the form of downgraded safety requirements. However, since the microorganisms are only to be experimented with – within the range between ‘extremely carefully’ to ‘to a certain extent’ – in isolation from the outside world, so that they can then provide their business-promoting services in it, there is also a release guideline specifically intended for this purpose. This directive provides for the testing of known, suspected, and unknown risks and damages which, in view of the speculative profit expectations of the industry, must first be accepted as a matter of course, which is why governmental testing of the dangers of genetic engineering processes and products does not precede their commercialization, but, according to the will of the legislator, has to hurry after it. The time handicap with which this type of risk perception starts is then compensated for by an all the more precise perception of the risks: “It is then made possible for the release of the modified organisms to be combined with the mandatory task of monitoring the organism placed on the market. In addition, the general environmental monitoring with regard to genetically modified organisms is introduced. Both monitoring (...) and general environmental monitoring aim to identify and assess changes in the environment and possible effects on human health. In particular, gaps in knowledge about environmental effects are to be closed.” (Genetic Engineering – Questions and Answers, www.Bundesregierung.de). This kind of attention that the state pays attention to the well-being of its people is very nice. It also protects it and the dear environment by starting a large-scale experiment on a living object, registering everything that can be observed by attentive gene-watching and “evaluating” it according to the degree of its remarkableness. In this way, by identifying the damages that have occurred, gaps in knowledge are closed, which, of course, must not stand in the way of a profitable use of scientific progress in an orderly capitalist state.
For the reasons mentioned above, this has so far been suspended by a marketing directive, but it is only underlined in red by the MS Word spelling program. In the constitutional state itself, an amended version should soon appear and delight bourgeois humanity with genetically modified products that have long since been released but will finally be available for purchase.
It is not only “terrorist states” that are keen on biological warfare weapons. Even if they are outlawed under international law as a means of a ‘dirty’ war, are considered ‘cheap’ weapons of mass destruction for “small” states and – as far as their practical use as a weapon in war is concerned – may be as difficult to calculate as nuclear-tipped devices: Of course, for the imagined scenario of a total war in which they might be involved, the large states in particular have prepared everything in the way of viruses and bacteria for weaponization, with which they can ruin the sources of war capability – soldiers, population, territory – of their possible opponents. And not only that: Since they assume that their opponents also possess everything they need to spread plague, cholera, anthrax, and hemorrhagic fever, they naturally want to be able to win a war waged with biological weapons. So, in their official and clandestine research laboratories, they look for ways and means to sharpen their bacteriological warfare tools: known pathogens of deadly diseases must be further developed with regard to their desired effects; they must be combined with others to perfect them; they must be made manageable for the strategy and tactics of warfare; antidotes must be sought against them; then antidotes must also be found against these antidotes, and so on. And since civilian genetic research can already report the successful combination of the AIDS and Ebola viruses as one of its successes, one can be sure that the achievements in its military department will be no less interesting – even if one does not hear anything about them. And one more thing is certain: If then it is also announced as a research success that one of these states is in the process of engineering certain viruses that are “programmed” for foreign soldiers, peoples, or races, i.e. to have a devastating effect only on them and to spare one’s own personnel; if war, thanks to the artifice of manipulating human genetic material, can be waged biologically, as a war against foreign races and thus can be waged in the way a great commander a good half century ago always wanted his war to be understood ideologically – then of course one may also take note of this technical progress as a “defense” of the civilized states against the “terror” which is always threatening from “regimes” of inferior significance ...
The Christian cultural nations have a special problem with a special department of genetic engineering: laws against abortion, which declare the embryo to be its own kind of legal person, remove it from the expectant mother’s right of disposal and thus protect the family as the national reproductive authority, turn out to be, although never meant this way, a legal shackle for research-relevant and technology-promoting manipulations of human stem cells which open up commercially highly interesting market segments. Unintentionally, the state has banned the commercially productive consumption of embryonic cells at the same time; and this ban is a heavy burden because the legislative authorities have done a great deal for the moral condemnation of abortion, and even more so after their calculated renunciation of punishment. To absolve the state-desired bio-market from this verdict would be a simple exercise from a purely legal point of view, but it is not so easy under the moral considerations that have been so emphatically enacted. So the politically responsible people make it demonstratively difficult for themselves and stage a public discourse about the moral qualities of fertilized egg cells, from which sovereignly appointed expert ethics committees are to distill a viable compromise for the scrupulous legislator. The most important thing has already been done: The difficulty of making a decision sanctifies every decision in the sense of a progress which is unstoppable anyway.
Where reproductive genetic engineering seeks to conquer the handling of human stem cells, their adult end products are finally getting their money’s worth. First and foremost, and in fact practically all those who, because of a quirk in their genome, a severe environmental influence, or some other stroke of fate, are denied the longed-for chance to make their precious genetic material useful for the reproduction of the human race: Unable to procreate, conceive, or give birth? It does not have to be that way! Nobody has to forego putting offspring of their very own into a world which writes off increasing percentages of their world as “overpopulation” and lets perish. Admittedly, the offspring, this bodily document of conjugal or quasi-marital love, then goes its own way, preformed more market-economically than genetically, with a fully developed will and consciousness – at least if not too much goes wrong in vitro and during implantation. But the delusion of somehow surviving in one’s “own flesh and blood” and preserving for humankind the wealth of a distinctive personality – possibly even in a genetically slightly improved version – has enough purchasing power to be served professionally and commercially.
And that's just the beginning – at least that’s what some “visionary” (?) genetic researchers believe, as well as a target group that’s probably not that small who, as soon as a specialist idiot or a gifted science journalist talks about “cloning humans,” promptly feels the unavoidable primal need within himself to literally double himself, down to the last letter of the double helix. Who knows, maybe even the little soul will somehow migrate to the genetic duplicate? In any case, the chance beckons to make an absolutely unadulterated living monument to oneself. And that, even if it belongs to the realm of “fantasy,” is a stunning offer for people who in fact act only as character masks in the system of competition and democratic rule, but for that very reason chase after an entirely self-imagined “self” that cries out for “realization.” The fact that nothing will come of the need to fill the world with nothing but replicants of bragging assholes right from the human germ cell is, in view of the existence and the general understanding appreciation of this need, truly no consolation.
The moral superstructure of the market-economy-democratic polity passionately engages, regardless of the fixed function of its engagement, in the domination-free moral discourse summoned by the authorities.
In their warning testimony, moral objectors succeed in creating a revealing portrait of the society in which they belong to the moral elite that sets the tone: They are sure that their society, which has a high standing in terms of human rights, will not shy away from anything it is capable of, except on the basis of drastic dissuasive bans. The employers of society are keen on selecting their employees according to genetic characteristics; health insurance companies, honorable social institutions, are keen to do the same with their customers. For enough money, clones would be available as human replacement parts on the free market, that institution of unrestrained human happiness. And between the killing of a fertilized human egg cell and the mass killing of disabled people there is in principle no disincentive – the concerned moral guardians at least see none. That is why, in order to “ward off the beginnings,” after which there is no stopping until the “Holocaust,” they advocate the “basic value of life,” which, in place of actual human existence, sanctifies its most primitive biological prerequisites so fundamentally that the life which the mass of their contemporaries really have to live beyond it pales into complete insignificance. They want this value to be withdrawn from any private disposal by the state and by virtue of public power – it is none of their business to which disposals, private as well as public-legal and not at all of a non-violent nature, the “life” which has matured into a real human being is practically subjected to and made serviceable to. They are also concerned about the monopolization of all rights of disposal by the constitutional supreme authority in their deep concern for the “basic value of freedom,” which ironically gets its crisis when a manipulatively realized intention is the godfather in the composition of the human genome. Then – otherwise never, but then! – the citizen of the earth made in this way would be degraded into the mere instrument of alien purposes, contrary to every Kantian imperative. Only as long as man owes his natural endowment to the inviolable whim of fate and not to a biochemist who arrogates to himself unauthorized rights of disposal and thus interferes with God’s work is he is in possession of that unimpeachably dignified freedom which he is allowed to live out in legally protected service to the demands of the capitalist competition as well as the assertive power of “his” nation. That’s why skeptical moralists don’t just find it deeply silly when some crazy people promise themselves the chance to become “immortal” by self-cloning, but discover a presumption with which man gambles away his rightly understood dignity and freedom...
The proponents of a biotech industry freed from legal restrictions counter this with an argument that is less concerned with occidental ideologies than with the facts of a generally accepted lie: In truth, the relevent stakeholders are concerned with nothing less than the eradication of disease and hunger. Honors are paid to the child with a hereditary illness whose suffering simply can’t be watched by hard-boiled politicians; which is why it is high time that the health insurance companies save on care for the normally chronically ill and instead support medical-technical progress. In a sign of the new social democratic honesty, however, national business success can now be cited without further ado as an “ethically responsible” supreme value, against which “ethical sentiments” from the Christian moth box must take a back seat – for such moralists of money making, the moral image that their opponents draw of the unscrupulousness of “the market” certainly applies. By the way, the apostles of a moral duty to progress in genetic engineering also have their own philosophers of freedom: Could it not be that man is only really truly himself when he, in the form of his philosophizing elite, no longer merely torments himself in the form of a dull mass with hopeless breeding efforts, but immediately cultivates himself into a global philosophical quartet? Because, apparently, this is what some principled theorists of western freedom, as well as others, believe: that not only will and consciousness in general, but also everything that a human being thinks, wants, and does, i.e. does with himself and the world, is “somehow” predetermined or caused by his cell nucleus ...