Hits & Genes

face the nation logo, 2009
Baseball and the human genome shared the stage on CBS News' Face The Nation.

On baseball, CBS News Correspondent Bob Schieffer talked with hall-of-famers Reggie Jackson and Jim Palmer, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Davey Johnson, and Sandy Alderson of the Major League Baseball Commissioner's office.

Discussion centered on why hitters are making and breaking records so much at the ballparks these days.

"The players (are) bigger and stronger, (then there's the) supplements that they're taking and there's big question marks about those kinds of things," said Jackson.

"Â… I was a big guy in my day," he added, "but now I can stand amongst the Griffeys and Belles and McGwires and Cansecos - and they all tower over me Â… The game is different."

Other changes have had an impact, too.

"People have talked about the fact that this is really a hitter's environment these days," said Alderson. "We've changed the ballparks. They have become more intimate. We do, I think, have a smaller strike zone. The pitchers don't benefit as much from the weight lifting and so forth as hitters do."

On the human genome, Correspondent Schieffer talked with Dr. Francis Collins of the Human Genome Project and author Jeremy Rifkin.

"This is a big deal," said Dr. Collins about the mapping of the human genome. "This is a scientific adventure like no other one we've gone on, because it is an adventure into ourselves. It is reading our own instruction book, something we only have to do once in all of history."

Rifkin warned such knowledge could be misused unless privacy safeguards were put in place now.

"The fact is, employers, insurance companies, school boards, adoption agencies, a lot of institutions are going to want to know our genetic profiles," he said. "I believe this issue of genetic privacy will be one of the great social issues of the 21st century."
Rikfin added that every time a company locates one of the genes that make up the human blueprint, it's being claimed as a patented invention.

"That means that in less than 20 years from now," he said, "the entire genetic blueprint of the human race will be owned in the form of intellectual property by a handful of companies. That gives them tremendous power to dictate the terms upon which this knowledge is used for."