BEACON TRANSCRIPT – Bioengineering has made signficant strides in the recent past, which has led a group of activists and scientists to request a global ban on the tools that would allow the editing of the genes of human embryos.
The report has been published ahead of a critical international meeting in Washington that plans to debate the policy and the ethical issues surrounding the controversial technology. It’s not news that innovation has made it possible for specific stretches of DNA to be edited – a method that could lead to the genetically-modified babies.
According to the activist group Friends of the Earth and the scientists at the Centre for Genetics and Society, strict regulations are required to halt such a powerful technology before it starts being used. Author of the report Pete Shanks, a consulting researcher at the Centre for Genetics and Society, said that this line must not be crossed – there will be no going back.
On the other side of the barricades are the advocates of the technology, arguing that CRISPR/Cas9, as it is called, could have the power to bring the day closee when scientists and researchers can prevent heritable diseases. But opponents present and equally strong – if not stronger – case.
Putting this technology unbridled in the hands of future generations will come with the temptation of parents paying for genetic enhancements for their unborn babies – who wouldn’t want a brilliant child or a sureway to athletic success? By using enzymes to bind to a mutated gene, CRISPR/Cas9 lets scientists to either replace or repair it, such as the case of heritable diseases.
If used on human eggs, sperm, or embryos, the technique could be the solution for the eventual eratication of a plethora of inherited diseases. But many scientists have good reason to worry that DNA modification could have unknown effects on future generations, seeing that medical advances are passed on to offspring, as well.
Released on the eve of the summit assembled by the US National Academy of Sciences – where China and United Kingdom are also invited – the report follows a series of events this past year. Supported by the White House, a group of scientists fronted by one of the main developers of the CRISPR technique asked for a ban.
And given that shortly after that a team of Chinese researchers reported the first experiment to alter the DNA of human embryos was already underway, their concern is well-founded. The summit will disscus the fears about eugenics and safety.
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