The act of altering and/or
constructing DNA sequences to create new or altered life-forms
brought to term artificially or through a natural host.
The Science of Genetic Engineering has long been known
in the Imperium. The first
at such were mainly along the lines of selective breeding, as practiced
by many primitive societies. The first direct genetic
by selective enhancement and alteration of the DNA of various
The Second Imperium was
for genetically enhancing both Orangutan and Dolphin DNA to raise them
to a higher level of intelligence. The most advanced area of this
genetic construction, includes the complete synthesis of totally new
entities from the ground up. The colonization of the many worlds
Imperium, most quite inhospitable, owes a lot to this sort of genetic
Ecosystems have been created for worlds where none previously existed
had no time to evolve.
Legal implications: There are many and varied laws
throughout the Imperial member states regarding what can and cannot be
done through genetic manipulation. Surprisingly there is
little Imperial law covering the subject. Aside from the usual
of planets rights to control the import and export of new or altered
the one overriding restriction is that "No human
DNA or DNA sequence may be used as a basis for genetic experimentation
or production without express permit." (The legal interpretation
to other sophont races as well.)
As this permission is remarkably hard to get, many scientists
have decried this as overly restrictive. They claim this as a
to human science and the attempt to eliminate various genetic
Commercial concerns have complained about the restrictions as sealing
a large potential market for ecosystem adaptation and tailored
for leisure, entertainment, and special industries. To understand
about the reasoning behind the law it is necessary to understand some
the events leading up to it.
There was no Imperial control over what could and could
not be done prior to the Genetic Manipulation Act, 194. The
was quite free with its experiments and constructions. There are
of worlds inhabited by genetically altered humans originating from this
time period. The popular vid-dramas of "Plutarch Assassins" are
fabrications. It is known that those with money could have
to suit their whim.
Much of this was lost over the Long Night
but in some
places research continued without even the small restrictions of the
at the time. In the early reawakening efforts were launched to
to recover as much material as possible and to continue the
as the core of the Imperium expanded more and more unlicensed worlds
brought in and the results of unlegislated and undisciplined use of
constructions got some dramatic media coverage.
On Agafo, a segment of Solomani
supremacists took advantage of the relatively poor diversity of the Vilani
gene set and engineered a killer mange that sought out Vilani
This necessitated a 400 year quarantine.
The planet of Emoue was taken over by the product of a
government eugenics project gone wrong. An enclave of their
still exists but are restricted to a series of islands and primitive
due to their genetically induced militant tendencies.
Attempts at autogenesis, cloning and memory transfer,
bore occasional fruits. This set a very disturbing undercurrent
the nobility and megacorporation
officers, both of which rely on inheritance as a means of proliferation
It was these and other similar incidents which swayed
public opinion and persuaded Emperor Martin
I to sign into law the Genetic Manipulation Act.
Violations have and continue to occur, both through scientific
idealism and commercial incentives. It is, in fact, a difficult
police. However, no major indiscretions have taken place and the
of Imperial backing to the law has kept most activity strictly legal.
Facts of genetic engineering: In the field of Genetic
Engineering proper, existing DNA codes are taken and spliced together
into new life forms. This can often be a long process of trial
and error, especially when dealing with new or not completely
understood codes. This
is generally best applied to tailoring a specific species to better
some end goal.
For example the Bondi, the nationalistic symbol was in
danger of extinction due to the changing biosphere of the planet.
is not a fast enough means of dealing with the often rapid changes that
technology can bring. Here, however, Genetic Scientists stepped
introduced changes to the lungs and respiratory systems of the animal
cope with the changes.
The more advanced field of Genetic Construction is quite
different. Instead of dealing with existing genetic codes, a
constructs them from the ground up. Completely unique creatures
Most evolved DNA consists and a large variety of sequences
derived randomly over time. Consequently there are large portions
codes that add nothing to the organism and are completely
creatures, though, are much more efficiently tailored. Extra
space is sometimes
used for comments or copyright notices but often even the most
constructed organism seldom has more than 4 or 6 chromosomes.
This fact actually makes it very easy to identify organisms
that have been constructed rather than evolved. Their origin is
through simple genetic analysis or often even a microscope. This
though, limits the variety. If a constructed organism is given the
for self reproduction the amount of parameters that can vary is quite
There is not the tolerance for random change built into evolved
constructed creatures, left in a natural environment, seldom evolve
or mutate and are very susceptible to diseases or changes that were not
engineered into them.
This, though, has its benefits. Often an organism or creature
can be created to fulfill a certain purpose or else produce a certain
Then, when it detects that it has accomplished its goals, it dies, or
Genetic engineering today: There are a number of
areas where Genetic Engineering comes to the fore in the Imperial
As previously mentioned biosphere construction has enabled the
of previously uninhabited worlds. This has caused contention in
where previous species have been eliminated by the new constructs.
The Ubedewi Iceworm was an early successful and popular
construct. It can live in temperatures near absolute zero by
any and all radiant energy. Ice worlds can be seeded with them
over time their albedo can be shifted.
Biological organisms can be an advantage over more mundane
constructs in certain situations. They can work, sometimes much
than machines, and usually possess the capability of self-repair and
self-propagation. Most people are familiar with Grashfalt which
on space stations. This is genetically engineered turf that is
and beneficial to artificial atmospheres.
Another interesting example are the varieties of painting
slugs on the market. Their diet consists of paint and they have a
in compulsion toward symmetry. Given a blank wall they will cover
intricate designs. These expand over the available surface area
double back forming an ever changing tableau of art.
Scientific interests aside, genetic engineering has been
used in the entertainment and leisure markets. Many exotic and
lifeforms have been discovered on a variety of worlds. Through
engineering, it has been possible to domesticate and adapt these
creatures with temperaments and habits that make them suitable pets.
A species of Feeweegro Tree Frog from Feeweegro (with
a particularly melodious mating call) was engineered and given a
for harmony. Two or more Harmonizers together will "sing" in
to each other in an ever changing melody taking as inspiration
sounds in their environment. Snatches of conversation, ringing
even construction work can be pleasantly accompanied if a quartet of
In the field of genetic construction creatures are not
limited to nature. All realms of fantastic and mythological
exist in reality. From living and animated stoles, to the
show pieces of evening suits made entirely of butterflies and sprites,
the range is too diverse to cover here.
Although the law restricts the use of human DNA, it does
not prevent the use of other primate DNA or constructs designed to look
as human as possible. These range from decorative garden cherubs
heavy laborers for mine work to specialized "escort girls".
to react in as near human a fashion as possible, legally these are
animals and have no rights other than what locally passes as animal
Needless to say moralists on many worlds object to the
more human like constructs on ethical grounds. This has proven to
extremely grey area, legally, though. The Imperium does, however,
an Office of Sentiency. They administer special exams upon
request to "potential
sentients". If they pass they are immediately declared sentient
and given all rights and accords due.
As the subsequent litigation by the newly declared sentient
against their previous creators or owners can be complex most genetic
agencies are careful to produce constructs a fair safety margin below
usual limits. There are shady businesses that deal much closer to
for commensurate prices, but, fortunately, they are the exception.