by Christina Sarich, Natural Society:
technologies like CRISPR has been called a “weapon of mass destruction and proliferation” by James Clapper, U.S. Director of National Intelligence, in his annual Worldwide Threat Assessment report.
Gene editing is the latest brainchild of the biotechnology industry. It has been touted as entirely different from gene insertion, the genetic modification technique used over the past several decades to create GM crops and GM animals. Gene editing technology alters the DNA inside living cells. The biotech industry says it is an easy and cheap way to mess with Mother Nature – but, as with other GM technology, the outcomes can’t be precisely controlled.
The rapid development of gene editing is due to tools like CRISPR/Cas-9, an injectable protein. It can locate a specific DNA strand in a person’s genome, delete it, and replace it with a new DNA sequence designed by genetic engineers. That’s quite a powerful technology that could be misused in the wrong hands.
Many scientists herald genome editing (‘germline editing’) as a way to correct conditions like Huntington’s disease or muscular dystrophy by changing the DNA in sperm, eggs or embryos. But others fear this is just a tactic to create “armies of blue-eyed super-intelligent babies.”
Genome editing’s relative ease of implementation worries the U.S. intelligence community, according to the threat assessment report. It states:
“Given the broad distribution, low cost, and accelerated pace of development of this dual-use technology, its deliberate or unintentional misuse might lead to far-reaching economic and national security implications.”
Naming gene editing as a potential weapon of mass destruction, or WMD, surprised Piers Millet, a bioweapons expert at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC. Making bioweapons generally requires skill in a “wide raft of technologies.”
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