Gene-Editing; Saving the World, or Killing It?

Anonymously Published

Imagine a world where disease is non-existent, and everyone is in perfect health. However in this world, everyone looks the same, acts the same, and are virtually all-around identical. Editing DNA with modern technologies raises too many ethical questions, which is why I believe that gene editing for diseases, that are not terminal, should be illegal. 

Many individuals would assume that gene-editing is a revolutionary concept to medical technology, which it is. However, where do we decide to draw the line between a disability or disease, and something that is just part of human nature? This line is too blurry to even consider the possibility of allowing it.

Genetic engineering, also known as gene-editing, is the direct manipulation of DNA, using biotechnology. Scientists use something called Crispr to cut and remove DNA at a specific location, which causes mutations that disable the gene. For example, according to the book GMO Sapiens by Paul Knoepfler (1), in 2015, scientists used Crispr to cut the HIV virus out of living cells. This experiment was successful, so the following year they did the same experiment but in rats who had HIV in all of their cells. Also, as seen in the editorial The Gene-Editing Conversation by Matthew Nisbet, gene editing is being used to engineer mosquitoes so they no longer spread viruses such as malaria or Zika, and mice so they no longer transmit Lyme disease to ticks.

By using Crispr to alter the DNA of unborn babies, we are just making way for more stereotypes to develop in our society. In the very near future, parents would be able to choose the colour of their child’s eyes, if they will be short or tall, or even more specific things like the types of food they will enjoy. No parent would want their child to be a “social outcast”, so they would remove any genes that could make them seem different from what everyone else looks like. Consequently, this would create a “perfect person” that everyone aspires to be. Our entire society would be carbon copies of each other. Yet if we only use Crispr to eradicate terminal diseases, these shocking stereotypes would not be an issue we would have to encounter.

One of the fundamental rights that come with being human, is choice. If parents are able to choose everything about our lives, our right to choose will be taken away with it. Some of the greatest people to influence our world have been people with disabilities, and who knows if they would have accomplished what they did without this disease? Take for example, Stephen Hawking. According to an article published by A&E Television Networks in 2019, Hawkings was told that he would not live past the age of 21, and he would have a horrible life, he completely proved everyone wrong and became one of our world’s greatest minds. If he had been born in the near future, he would not have been born with ALS, and may not have had the will to prove to the world he was just as good as everyone else. Meaning, he may not have accomplished all that he did. People who have disabilities can be just as capable as everyone else, but genetic engineering non-terminal issues might put a stop to that.

As promising as genetic engineering seems, the only real solution that will keep our world away from the mercy of constant stereotypes, is only using the technology surrounding gene-editing to treat non-terminal diseases. By making all other reasons for treatment illegal, a world where everyone is exactly the same, will not exist in the near future. And as speaker Vandava Shiva once said, “Genetic engineering has never been about saving the world, it is about controlling the world.”