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Why we should stop talking about gene editing in terms of dystopian sci fi

| | April 29, 2015

This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Recently, I went on the NPR show “On Point” to talk about using CRISPR to edit embryos. Towards the end of the show, I went on a bit of an anti-GATTACA rant. GATTACA, in case you haven’t seen it, is a movie that puts a biotech twist on Brave New World. Marcy Danovsky of the Center for Genetics and Society and other critics frequently warn that embryo editing could lead to a world like the movie–in other words, rich people would create a genetically altered population of super-smart, super-healthy people, leaving the have-nots in the dust.

If we’re going to talk about international bans, I’d like an international ban on invoking GATTACA in these discussions. It’s like saying, “We shouldn’t genetically engineer people because we will end up with an army of flying monkeys who will enslave the rest of us.” I mean, we can imagine an army of flying monkey overlords, and we can all agree that an army of flying monkey overlords would be a bad thing. But is that the most useful way to talk about the real social and medical impacts of a new technology?

You don’t need CRISPR to create health inequity. We already live in a world with big inequities in well-being. We didn’t have to wait for genetic engineering to make that happen. And the fact that CRISPR could create inherited changes is also not so special. Socially based inequities get passed down through the generations too.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: Talking About Editing Human Embryos on the Radio

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