Gene(sis): Contemporary Art Explores Human Genomics: Robin Held
On June 26,2000, The Human Genome Project, a public consortium, and Celera Genomics, a private company, jointly announced the completion ofa "working draft" ofthe human genome. Supporters hail this event as a scientific revolution, anticipating benefits in improved diagnosis ofdisease, early detection ofgenetic predisposition, gene therapy, and personalized drug prescription, among others. Detractors raise the specter of eugenics, warning that the use of genetic testing as a basis for reproductive decision making can be compared to the practice of selective breeding. As anticipation and anxiety mount, the debate surrounding the potential impact of recent genomic developments is rapidly becoming a defining issue of our contenlporary culture. Social and ethical issues of human genetics-including the misuse of genetic information and potential threat to personal privacy, the potential discrimination against individuals carrying altered genes, free will versus genetic determinisnl-which have been debated throughout the twentieth century, are now intensified with the completion of the rough draft.