Saturday, February 18, 2012

Crossbreed- this was the topic given to me for the creative writing event of Riviera'12

The term is self-explanatory. It literally means ‘a living entity which is a cross between two different breeds.’ As I am a student of biotechnology, it is easy to give an elaborate description of the term. A crossbreed can be interspecific, such as Durum wheat. The process involved is interspecific hybridization to give rise to an improved variant, as different traits are combined and expressed. It is easier to manipulate plants rather than animals, as their genomes are less complex. Hence, most of the applications of crossbreeding are confined to agriculture.

Healthy plant variants could be selected based on natural genetic engineering, which was done with partial human interference of choosing and crossing different breeds. The foundation was laid for the development of modern biotechnology involving highly mechanized manipulation of plants at the genetic level.  Crossbreeding wasn’t just confined to breeds between different species but between different genera as well. For instance, the ‘pomato’ is an intergeneric cross between the potato and the tomato, combining the best traits of each.

However, crossbreeding hasn’t been successful in the case of animals. Certain defects are probably formed during crossing over of genetic material. This leads to organ rejection, malfunctioning of systems and ultimately death. Humans may have 98% genetic similarity with chimpanzees, but merely that will not ensure the formation of a crossbreeds called ‘chimpumans’ or ‘humanzees’! After all, who’d like to have progeny who’re neither humans nor chimpanzees? Hardly a few, who are crazy, wacky enough to experiment with no regard for their personal ethics. It’s a waste of time and money into this research which is futile, rather than investing on more immediate issues of the global economy and the environment. Millions of people don’t get two square meals a day to consume and this is more pronounced in today’s era of fiscal recession. The globe is confronted with environmental issues such as global warming and the rapid depletion of exhaustible resources too. Therefore, in a nutshell, let nature take its own course for genetic engineering and the evolution of organisms due to variation in traits. Human beings need not play God. Nature has given us plenty to meet our needs. Our greed may not have a so-called panacea by the name of biotechnology. In a nutshell, the idea of human beings trying to create hybrids of animals seems fine for science fiction books such as Frankenstein or mythological stories depicting a chimera or a unicorn, but not in real life.     

(February 4, 2012)   

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