Segments in this Video

Spiral Staircase (03:45)


Artist Eduardo Kac shows a sculpture that represents human DNA. Scientist Jim Kent draws diagrams representing human genomes and cells. The nucleus is a sort of brain for the cell and the DNA is housed in the nucleus.

Beauty and Complexity (02:37)

Scientists worldwide collaborate on the Human Genome Project. Jim Kent from the University of Santa Cruz, California gives a brief explanation of the technology. In 2000, Bill Clinton called DNA "the language in which God created life."

Decoding the Human Genome (02:32)

Most chemicals are so small that they are not visible, but DNA is about a foot long if it were unwound, resembling a spiral staircase with billions of steps. The sequencing process is reading each step. Kent won the race to decode the human genome by writing a software program in four weeks that completed the project.

Manipulating Human Genes (02:26)

Craig Venter, who worked for the National Institute of Health before switching to the private industry, had the gene sequences that he discovered patented so that he could maintain exclusive rights over their manipulation. The primary motive of the study of human genes switched from progress and disease cures to profit. Venter and Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Project, were honored at the White House.

Map of the Human Genome (02:02)

Kac describes the construction of his critical artistic piece where he made the "genesis gene." He took a Bible passage and translated it into Morse code, eventually creating a gene that encoded the biblical message.

Individualized Genes (03:18)

Kent displays the publication of the Human Genome Project's results in "Nature" magazine. A map of the human genome was created. Kent shows a graphic of Chromosome 1, the largest chromosome in human DNA.

Attacking Genetic Roots (03:20)

Until 1998, Venter worked on the government-funded Human Genome Project, and then funded his company Celera Genomics with $300 million in venture capital. It soon became clear in the scientific community that localizing genes still did not indicate their functions and that single genes are not responsible for diseases.

Eliminating Cold Fish (03:17)

Kent says that though occasionally families suffering from shared illnesses can find what genome is shared, it is still too early to go in and fix genomes with that information. Kent finds it prudent to understand the genome before attempting to change it, but according to Bill McKibben, not all scientists agree with this. He says that James Watson spoke of a future where DNA would be altered to eliminate stupid, ugly, and shy people.

Very Human Job (03:38)

Dr. Bentley Glass predicts ways of understanding the totality of genes in an individual rather than just the visible or expressed phenotypes. This could lead to parents gaining the ability to go into a clinic and choose the traits of their unborn child.

Re-instituting Nature Selection (03:42)

Historically, Glass says, the dream was to increase the amount of geniuses in the population and decrease the number of people that have disorders. Kimbrell says that this is a new eugenics and it is especially dangerous because of how it is disguised as good science.

Blood-Sucking Flies (02:37)

The Human Genome Diversity Project was created after the Human Genome Project, with an aim to collect genetic material from ethnic groups worldwide that are threatened with extinction. Scientists and representatives from pharmaceutical companies took blood, saliva, and hair samples from these indigenous people, expecting their genetic material to be particularly pure because of the lack of interbreeding of such tribes.

Continuum of Life (03:19)

Lazaro Pary of Bolivia says that American and European anthropologists have secretly infiltrated Amazonian peoples and taken samples from them without permission. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz calls this the final form of colonialism, where the last shred of what peoples have, their genetics and their communities, are being thought of capitalistically and commandeered without explicit permission.

Appropriation of Human Genetic Materials (03:00)

Panama attorney Aresio Valiente maintains that there are things the endangered peoples will share with the rest of the world, but on the hard condition that the people are respected in every way. Attorney Alejandro Argumedo talks about a company Sweden that is making money off of the genetic material of women in Peru without their knowledge.

Government Persuasion (03:37)

Sigurdor Gudmundsson, director of Public Health in Iceland, describes why the genetic material of the Icelandic population is so valuable. The population is relatively well-educated, small, and has meticulously kept medical records and family tree history. Harvard professor Dr. Kari Stefanson created DeCode Genetics.

Opposing the Transfer of Data (04:03)

Professor Einar Arnason is chairman of Mannverd, a human rights organization that was founded in opposition to DeCode Genetics purchasing the medical records of Icelanders. Psychiatrist Professor Petur Hauksson and Dr. Johann Tomasson describe the way their medical practices have changed and the refusal of their patients to participate. Over two thirds of doctors in Iceland have refused to surrender their patients' records.

Skeptical and Distrustful (04:20)

Though MS sufferer Sigurbjorg Arnnsdottir has participated in many research studies over the last 38 years, she opted out of participating in sharing her records with this new private company that she feels is making a commodity out of people's genetic material. She fears for the safety of her relatives, knowing that the companies that want to access to medical records are insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

Nature's Experimentations (03:44)

Though information about personal genetic material could prove to be valuable in making health decisions, Kimbrell warns that hundreds of cases of discrimination based on genetic information have already been discovered. It is imperative to keep genetic information away from organizations that have reasons to discriminate, like employers, schools, insurance companies, and corporations. Kent does not think that genetic material is understood well enough to be modified.

Personal and Political (02:35)

Kimbrell says that people give far too much credit to the biotechnology industry; he fears the amount of destruction to genetics, the environment, the animals, and the plants that they could potentially do. McKibben does not think people have made up their minds about genetic modification and that people have an intuitive knowledge that it is not something that should be done.

Credits: Designer Babies and Gene Robbery (00:41)

Credits: Designer Babies and Gene Robbery

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Designer Babies and Gene Robbery

DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
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Want the perfect baby? Now you have to cross your fingers and hope for the best. But imagine if you could go down to the local baby clinic and max out your credit card. You could ensure your child was beautiful and intelligent. You could even guarantee they would never become an alcoholic. It may sound farfetched but the groundwork is already in place. But what are the dangers of tinkering with our genetic makeup? Who owns human genes and should they be allowed to sell them to the highest bidder? This eye opening film explores the conflict between private commerce and public health.

Length: 59 minutes

Item#: BVL118356

ISBN: 978-1-63521-746-9

Copyright date: ©2006

Closed Captioned

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Not available to Home Video customers.