A Question of the Ages
Gene editing is one of the greatest controversies of the modern era. Since the dawn of modern humans, there has always been the thought of what people could do to make themselves better, whether that is through becoming super strong, beautiful, immune to sickness, or immortal. This idea and drive has been around forever. The main controversy about the idea of gene altering is the ethics of it. No one who doesn't have a stake in the business can argue with the idea of creating a world with no sickness or disease. Being able to give families a world without these problems would be amazing.
But what happens if this technology is only available to the 1%. The rich would no longer just be richer than most but would be better in almost every way than the average person. This could make the gap between the rich and the poor even greater. This gap could become so large that it could become even more likely that this divide could never be healed. But it could go beyond the rich. The ability to change anything about you at any time could create a culture of unrealistic body standards for people. Characteristics of people could be chosen or unchosen. Combining this with the possibility of only the rich doing this could very well magnify the issue. Imagine a world where everyone looks more or less the same and there was very little to no genetic diversity. This could happen if the ethical conversation is not taken seriously.
With gene editing technology the ability to cure disease and sickness and possibly prolong could very well change the way we treat life itself. Every day without thinking about it we move through the world in ways that avoid sickness and injury and anything that could hurt our body. But imagine a world where no one had to worry about any of these things. People would move through the world with no fear which would be very nice, but it could also be dangerous. People moving through the world do whatever they want because it doesn't hurt them. But this danger and fear are honestly what makes life so special. The idea that any moment you could get sick and die drives people to follow their dreams as soon as they can and make the most out of life because you never really know what could happen.
Gene editing goes far beyond human life. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have amazing potential to solves things like world hungry, more accessible healthy food, and could use less energy, or less water to produce. GMO crops could be cultivated to withstand extreme weather due to climate change like drought or extreme temperatures. However, at this time GMOs have only been commercially sold for herbicide or pesticide resistance. Claims of drought-resistant plants have not been proven. The vast use of RoundUp Ready soy and corn has resulted in overuse of glyphosate and other carcinogenic herbicides. This large use has also resulted in monocropping that creates a vulnerability from a lack of diversity. One strain of disease could wipe out millions of acres and any future crops as well.
There are endless possibilities for gene editing and they are being explored in animals for human use, things like increasing disease resistance, faster and more growth, and more reproduction. While many of these could be beneficial, the best possible gene editing is to create a puppy that never ages. But is this ethical? Who wouldn't want a puppy that doesn't grow old? That would bring enjoyment and pleasure to many people around the world. However, once these genetics are released into the world, they cannot be controlled. Mother Nature finds ways for the gene to spread, and that gene could spread to other dogs and we could end up with puppies that cannot reproduce, and wipe out the dog population. This is the challenge of gene editing. Although the uses may be beneficial to start with, they also are fundamentally disrupting the natural order in ways we cannot comprehend.
Published on 31 May 2018