Unnatural sex selection

On Selection and Perfection

Right about a wrong

Folks, I told you this was coming

Despite the scoffings of some of my readers and peers (or as close to them as there may be) in the health publishing field, I've been warning about unnatural sex selection as a fast-approaching reality (Daily Dose, 11/21/2003 and 6/4/2004) for years.

Not to bludgeon the point, but here's exactly what I predicted, circa June of 2004:

"sex selection, were it a reality, would quickly and irrevocably skew the male-female ratio of the human race - especially in those cultures (and there are many, especially in Asia) in which male children are more highly regarded than females."

And although I often delight in being right and gloating about it, this is one instance in which I wish I were dead wrong. As many as 10 MILLION people would now be alive if I were of my rocker on this issue. But unfortunately, I'm not. According to recent articles in both the BBC News online and the Associated Press, that's how many fetuses have been aborted in India over the past 20 years simply because they were female

India is one of those nations which holds that male children are more desirable than females. Abortion is legal there, too. Until 12 years ago, abortions specifically aimed at selecting a baby's sex were perfectly legal as well. Now, the practice is technically illegal, but still rampant-especially in the country's more affluent zones.

In 1901, the country's ratio of girls to boys was a normal 972 to 1000. Today, in well-off Indian locales where people can afford abortion procedures (like Punjab and Haryana), that ratio can be as low as 820 girls for every 1000 boys

The most shocking part about this is the fact that although abortion-as-selection has been illegal for a dozen years, the FIRST PENALTY yet in India for the offense (two years jail time and the equivalent of U.S. $125 in fines) was handed down just a few weeks ago as part of a sting operation conducted by medical authorities.

According to the accounts, the offending doctor offered, for an additional fee, to reveal the sex of a pregnant officer's fetus following an ultrasound test. This in itself is a crime, but when the doctor then implied that an abortion was in order after the scan revealed a female fetus, the whip came down on both the doctor and his assistant.

Currently, similar cases are pending against at least three more Indian doctors, the AP story reveals.

But on a different note on mankind's increasing habit of genetic interference

Makin' better bacon?

Unlike a lot of people, I remain open-minded about genetic engineering (except when it's used to serve the whims of individual human beings). You may know this from my writings in the past, which have tentatively endorsed genetically enhanced foodstuffs, like certain vegetables and eggs

And back in June of last year (Daily Dose, 6/17/2005), I wrote to you about the findings of some research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that concluded that both the meat and milk from cloned cattle where all but indistinguishable from those of nature's own.

In the latest along this vein of science comes this: Cloned pigs that aren't just "as good as," but are actually better than the real thing. Theoretically, anyway.

According to a March article from Agence France Presse, some American researchers from the University of Pittsburgh have successfully bred 4 piglets (it took 1633 cloned embryos to do it, by the way) that contain a gene from a species of worm that transforms them into porkers rich in bodily Omega-3 acids - something pigs are normally not well supplied with by nature.

The genetic experiment was initiated to help better understand the role Omega-3s play in keeping the heart healthy (porcine and human hearts are remarkably similar), but may have future ramifications in breeding pigs with even healthier meat that can be powerful heart medicine in itself - and help people to avoid the mercury and other heavy metals found in greater and greater concentrations of trout, salmon, and other traditional sources of dietary Omega-3s

Stay tuned, I'll keep you updated as this story develops. But it sounds pretty delicious and heart-healthy so far to me, one way or another.

Sticking to my props - and licking my chops,

William Campbell Douglass II, MD