Genetic Modification or Genemodding is the alteration of a living creature's genetic makeup in order to alter the way their body works, appearance, or instinctive behaviours. While this practice has been relatively widespread since the 21st century applied to embryos, advances in the last century and a half have allowed modifications to be applied to post-natal individuals, though this process is often complex and arduous. Traditionally usage was mostly limited to minor cosmetic changes such as 'natural' eye colour or hair colour, or in preventative healthcare. In recent years, the easing of Five Points restrictions has allowed for humans in SCG territory to voluntarily undergo more complex modifications, often colloquially shortened to "Genemods", legally for the first time after many years of an often imprecise requirement to not "excede the natural human baseline".
Availability and Legality
As of the late 2560s, commercial gene modification services are offered by several major Trans-Stellar Corporations, though most key patents are held by Kaleidoscope Cosmetics who largely dominate the market as a result. Prices remain extremely high, and the mods are often considered the realm of the ultra-rich, or those who have been made or incentivised to recieve the modifications by a wealth "benefactor" such as designer children or employees under invasive contracts from eccentric employers (Though some interested parties do deliberately seek out these opportunities in order to recieve modifications at what they consider to be a lower cost).
Prior to this, extensive modification such as those now offered were sometimes available on the black market, though lack of regulation and dedicated facilities meant that the process could be highly dangerous, or even fatal. Non-SCG entities often offered these services legally within their own territory, but humans undergoing the procedures would usually be legally and/or socially ostracized if they returned to SCG space. Pre-natal modification, especially for Vatborn children has been widespread for several centuries, though regulation has limited it to the elimination of only life-threatening conditions, and purely cosmetic alterations, though the definitions of these terms have often sparked heated ethical debate.
The prior illegality of extensive modification, association with fanatical mercurial and seperatist groups, suddenness of its availability in human territories and the sheer costs involved, individuals with genetic modifications are often viewed with suspicion or disdain in wider society. Some associate the practice with extreme vanity, eccentricity, or self-obsession, and indeed this is the case for some of the wealthy early adopters though the stigma is often unfairly extended to all, particularly those with overt "animal" features.
As of 2571 it was reported that 9% of humans were in some way "augmented" beyong the prior "human baseline", though the number engaged in extensive post-natal cosmetic use makes up only a fraction of this number. The largely human "genetic craze" has not yet spread widely to alien cultures significantly enough for major companies to develop gene modification for other minority species, such as Tajara.
- Kaleidoscope Cosmetics were the first major corporation to acquire the legal rights to previously illegal technologies, via deals with the Almach Protectorate. They dominate the market and now operate gene clinics in almost every major city, according to their own marketing.
- Vey-Medical offers a selection of modifications based on Skrellian technology which were not immediately covered by Kaleidoscope's broad patent rights.
- NanoTrasen has begun efforts to develop new gene modification technology or alternatives based on applications of Sif Anomalous Region phenomena, to limited success.
- Numerous cybernetic and prosthetic corporations have begun fierce efforts to offer "safer" alternatives in the form of implant technology, including Morpheus Cyberkinetics, Bishop Cybernetics, and Ward-Takahashi GMC.
- As a whole, the Skrell do not restrict genetic modification, but most are tuned for their own biology and more outlandish cosmetic alterations like those popular among human consumers are considered frivolous or a taboo attempt to disguise one's caste.
- Companies on Eutopia have offered some forms of genetic modification for several decades, though it gained a reputation for overpriced but shoddy, cost-cutting work prior to the SCG legalization, due to their relative monopoly on the service.
- The colony of Angessa's Pearl is home to a large religious sect who believe centrally in total self-improvement via genetic and cybernetic modification. Angessan scientists were the forerunners in the development of much of the technology used in commercial genemodding today, having operated illegally for many years prior to the reduction in Five Points restrictions, seeing particular advances during the unrestricted, independent period of the Almach Association in the early 2560s and relaxed attitudes of the Skrell under the later Almach Protectorate. The increased availability of genetic modification and equivalent augments has lead to a rise in the popularity of the Angessan belief system, even outside its home system.
Modern genemod services include:
- Minor genetic alterations such as ear shape and facial tissue distribution.
- Alterations to metabolism.
- Enhancement of sensory input.
- Addition of limbs and appendages, often "popular" animal features such as tails and ears, though their functionality varies by price point.
- Adjustments to height, fat distribution etc.
- Treatments to prevent the development of acute and chronic conditions such as cancers and age related conditions.
- Other cosmetic and/or identity-affirming modifications.
Due to the nature of treatment, which can take the form of extensive and often excrutiatingly painful administration of gene-altering serum, or the grafting/implantation of tissue grown in a similar process to that of Vatborn bodies or synthetic bio-limbs, which can take weeks of physiotherapy to adjust to. Cybernetic alternatives exist for some of these, often at a lower price point and risk factor, though they rarely perform as well as the "real thing".
As the technology is still in its infancy and has been accused of being "rushed to market", in all cases there is risk of defects and a not insignificant number of patients go on to experience chronic conditions or pain related to the modification.