By Julie Ibrahimova
To many people, the appeal of genetically-modified babies stems from the fact that it can prevent genetic diseases. But many others are focused on the ethical issues behind this new technology. I chose to talk about this controversial topic because it is something that will greatly impact our future and I wanted to see if there were any possible consequences from it.
How is it done?
This type of genetic engineering has already been done in China using a technique called CRISPR ( Clustered Regularly Inter-spaced Short Palindromic Repeats). CRISPR uses short pieces of RNA that are transcribed (inserted) into an RNA sequence which can then be used to find matching DNA sections to identify the genes responsible for specific diseases. Once found, CRISPR uses the Cas9 enzyme, which cuts out of the DNA sequence. Though CRISPR engineering is still fairly new and has a long ways to go before it is fully safe, I can see why in it may be considered the vaccine of the future; curing diseases such as HIV and even Cancer.
What changes could parents make?
On the positive side, genetic engineering can reduce the chances of passing down conditions from parents. However, many are afraid that it will be used for the wrong reasons, such as gender selection. If we allow for people to choose the genders of their children, it may create an imbalance in society, since in many cultures boys are often preferred. Moreover, this kind of change could greatly regress how far men and women have come in terms of equality. I believe that if we truly consider using this tool widely and giving parents the option to create their ‘designer babies’ then there should be regulations that come with it.
For instance, parents should not be allowed to play with the genetic features of their children to enhance their capabilities such as their intelligence or appearance. Because if such changes are made then it can lead to many secondary problems, like athletes needing to be checked for genetic modifications that give them unfair advantages. Or similarly being checked for modifications whenever we take standardized tests. In addition this scientific know-how will most likely be pricey and accessible to only wealthy families, giving intellectual or physical advantages to their children. Due to this, such technology should be limited to the treatment of genetic diseases.
Should we be looking forward to this new technology?
All in all, this useful know-how has lots of potential for medical purposes, but there are also many risks of it to being used for the wrong reasons. I think that the main danger of such technology is how it can be used to create superhuman features for the advantages of the military. Therefore, international laws have to be laid in order for it to be released to the public, to ensure that no one has the power to use it for harm.