Survivor of the Clan
Shelby’s attention flitted to her father taking the stage—a man with a flair for the dramatic, dressed in a suit jacket and kilt, a man proud of his Scottish ancestry fully on display. She couldn’t help but release a soft chuckle at his expense. He definitely milked the attention from all who attended.
“Now I have the pleasure of introducing not just a brilliant young man, but he just happens to be my son-in-law. Please welcome Dr. Kyle Locke, who will discuss the importance of aiding the world’s food supply through the power of genetics.”
A healthy applause greeted Kyle as he strode onto the stage and stood behind the podium. He adjusted the microphone toward his mouth, scanning the audience of fellow scientists from around the world. A proud smile crossed his lips seeing his beautiful wife in the back row. He took a deep breath and began, “We have come a long way since Dolly. We have learned not merely how to replicate DNA, but advances in technology have given us the tools to avoid genetic defects by monitoring chromosome sequencing. The benefits of these advances can be used globally to combat the pandemic of starvation.”
The lights dimmed. On a large screen the sun rose over the Serengeti with the long necks of giraffes shadowed against the sky. “Africa, still an unchartered frontier even after hundreds of years, and so many have yet to see the progress of the modern world. They are experiencing the worst of climate change, diminishing their natural recourses,” Kyle spoke over the video.
Healthy African children run alongside with Ankole-Watusi cattle on the screen, as Kyle continued his speech. The video cuts to the children eating steaks and drinking large glasses of milk. “The Morehead Bovine Genome Project has saved the lives of thousands, whether providing milk or meat.”
Dr. Vasily Apostol Khmelnytsky, a sharply-dressed scientist wearing wire-framed spectacles raised his hand.
Kyle paused his speech to accept his question. “Yes.”
“Genetically cloned cattle, how can you be sure it will be safe for human consumption?” Apostol asked.
Pressing his glasses to his face, Kyle released a soft smile. “Whether conceived in a womb or petri dish, it is the same natural cellular reproduction. As mentioned, with the modern technology we can monitor the health of the product we are creating.”
“Product?” Apostol questioned with a laugh.
“Why yes, product. Product: food to save humanity from the most dreadful disease called starvation. Perhaps you are not aware of this problem in Southeast Europe, but around the world in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and South America are finding it difficult to have any agriculture due to extremes in temperature. If our species is to survive, we have to make calculating decisions about producing food.”
“That so-called-product could be latent with tumors and diseases bought on by genetic defect. Are you telling us that human progress is supplying the world with sick beef?” Apostol continued.
“Our product meets with all government regulations,” Kyle assured.
Apostol swayed his arms in a dramatic gesture. “Oh, if the government says so, then it must be safe!” he exclaimed with booming sarcasm. “Exactly which government deemed this safe for human consumption?”
Morehead rose from his seat and addressed the adverse doctor. “Apostol, are you discouraged that you were not given the opportunity to speak at the symposium? Perhaps you should return to Odessa and continue your studies on the importance of designer babies. Ukraine is becoming dreadfully short of real-life Barbie dolls,” he said, followed by a round of snickers.
Gazing around at the audience, Apostol took the jest with a good-hearted grin. He spotted Shelby seated in the back row. He studied her intently for a moment and when she met his eye contact, he gave her a pleasant smile. Instinctively, she returned the gesture, sensing a strange affinity to the man.
Morehead took the stage beside Kyle at the podium. “Thank you, Dr. Locke.” He addressed his peers. “There is no doubt, our work can be considered controversial to some people. We scientists must balance the limit of what is beneficial to society and not cross the lines of legality. Now, I would like to introduce one of my most respected colleagues, Dr. Rebecca Kinnaird, senior research geneticist at the Morehead Institute.
Dr. Rebecca Kinnaird, an attractive blonde-haired woman in her mid-fifties rose from her seat and gracefully took the stage. She gave Kyle a handshake and Morehead a hug and kiss on each cheek. She turned to the audience. “Thank you, Ian, for the lovely introduction. Today, peers, I would like to elaborate on Dr. Locke’s speech. Yes, we have made great technological advances in genetics. It is more than just DNA and more than just the 30,000 chromosomes in the human genome. It is the environment that switches our chromosomes on and off. Many can share the same DNA, but have completely different experiences as a human being based on environment. Manipulating environmental switches, we can rid the world of diseases. We can create stronger species of plants and animals that can withstand climate changes and diseases that affect the world. Although the world is facing dramatic crises, we scientists are at the helm to not only save humanity, but strengthen it.”
The scientists applauded Dr. Kinnaird’s words and once again, Morehead stood before the podium. “I would like to remind my colleagues the addresses you heard here today may bring concern to the masses who do not understand our work. I trust you will all use discretion. Scientists must often work in secret for fear of their progress being destroyed by the unknowing proletariat. We also must be mindful not to use our knowledge for superficial and mainly financial means,” he said, his eyes landing on Apostol. “As I know some of your work involves working with families who lost loved ones. Death is a part of life. We must resist the temptation of playing God for the hopeless.
Morehead’s words brought silence to the room. They all knew they had the understanding and the power, the common man couldn’t fathom. They had the capacity to make God irrelevant.