There’s gold in them thar hills! Ounce for ounce, human eggs are probably the most valuable commodity on the planet, with highly intelligent and beautiful university women offered $50,000 or more for their ova for use in eugenic IVF.
If — or better stated, when — human cloning is successfully accomplished, the egg demand will go vertical. Each cloning attempt requires an enucleated human egg in which to place genetic material, in a process called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). SCNT is the essential technology to develop the Brave New World technologies such as genetic engineering.
All of this threatens to commodify women as egg suppliers for a fee. Destitute women from the developing world are already being so exploited. Pending California legislation would, in fact, open the door to an egg market for use in biotech — currently not allowed — which makes me think cloning is very close. (The way these guys work is to be cool with prohibiting things they don’t yet need or can’t yet do — until they need or can do it — as a way to keep a wary public quiet.)
I get into this — and the very real health hazards for women who allow their eggs to be harvested — such as loss of fecundity and in rare cases, death — over at my biweekly First Things column. Here’s my conclusion:
It used to be that women’s bodies were primarily objectified for sexual services. If we are not careful, we will soon add their procreative substances and reproductive capacities to that sorry list. Caveat venditor.
Seller beware, indeed.