[EDITORIAL] The Genome's Challenge For Korea

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[EDITORIAL] The Genome's Challenge For Korea

A detailed analysis of the entire human genetic code has been completed. Credit for this astounding feat goes to the U.S. government, its multinational partners and the scientists at Celera Genomics Corporation. The analysis was completed only eight months after a rough draft of the human genome was presented by scientists last June. The analysis of the genes is particularly meaningful because it provides the opportunity to correct and enhance our genetic destiny. Not only will the information allow scientists to find cures for diseases, but it also could be used to produce the "perfect" human being.

There are caveats inherent in all this. There is the danger of genetic discrimination. Persons possessing defective genes could be considered flawed and unfit and subjected to bias. It is not far-fetched to imagine that people who possess the "right" genes might possibly exert genetic superiority generation after generation. Another is the violation of privacy, with the disclosure of personal data about persons with defective genes, which could lead to job discrimination or rejection for insurance.

We cannot overlook the fact that mapping the human genome and other accomplishments in the bio-sciences were initiated by the United States along with several European nations and Japan. But it appears that only the United States and Britain are really active in the group, with the other countries making only a minor contribution.

The United States has declared that it will make the genome information public. But it is doubtful that results of a research project that consumed enormous amounts of money will be handed out free.

The establishment of an international organization allowing nations to share equally in the fruits of the genomic projects is imperative. But Korea should waste no time in carrying out genetic research. We must not subordinate ourselves to the United States or other countries in the area of bioengineering technology, as we have done in information and telecommunications technology. The government should give its full support to the biotech industry to help revive the economy, as it is already doing with the semiconductor companies.

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