In the 22nd century, manipulation of the human genome became commonplace. Techniques for genetic engineering advanced to the point where the rich could custom-build fetuses that grew into stronger, smarter, and more attractive adults. In more permissive regions, custom-designed life forms and "uplifted" animals occupied an ill-defined niche between "property" and "sapient being".
Travel to planets with unique forms of life brought an awareness that Earth's biodiversity could be lost if it spliced and hybridized to gain useful alien qualities. The Sudham-Wolcott Genetic Heritage Act was passed by the Systems Alliance Parliament in 2161. It imposed sharp restrictions on controversial uses of genetic engineering, but provided government subsidies for beneficial applications.
SCREENING AND THERAPY: Most governments provide free assessments and corrective therapy for genetic diseases in prospective parents. This has nearly eliminated everything from cystic fibrosis to nearsightedness. The earlier screening and therapy is performed, the more comprehensive the results. Though ideally performed on artificially fertilized zygotes in a lab, procedures are available for embryos in the womb and newborns, out of respect for personal beliefs.
ENHANCEMENT: Improvements of natural human abilities is legal, but adding new abilities is not. Treatments to improve strength, reflexes, mental ability, or appearance are permitted; adding a tail or the ability to digest cellulose is not. Some genetic enhancement is provided for free to Alliance military recruits, but the average citizen must pay for the privilege. The process can take years to reach fruition in an adult.
ENGINEERING: Artificial hybridization of genes from compatible non-human species with human genetic code is illegal. Creation of designed life is broadly legal (and mainly used for terraforming and medical applications), but sentient creatures are heavily regulated, and creation of sapient life is outlawed by both the Systems Alliance and the Citadel Council.