Gene editing: Playing God or repairing a ‘natural system’ that has gone haywire?

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Credit: Medium
Credit: Medium

With CRISPR, biologists have already created—among many, many other living things—ants that can’t smell, beagles that put on superhero-like brawn, pigs that resist swine fever, macaques that suffer from sleep disorders, coffee beans that contain no caffeine, salmon that don’t lay eggs, [and] mice that don’t get fat.

[Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness molecular biologist Mike] Tizard knows that many people are freaked out by genetically modified organisms. They find the idea of eating them repugnant, and of releasing them into the world anathema. Though he’s no provocateur, he, like [biohacker Josiah] Zayner, believes that such people are looking at things all wrong. “We have chickens that glow green,” Tizard told me. “And so we have school groups that come, and when they see the green chicken, you know, some of the kids go, ‘Oh, that’s really cool. Hey, if I eat that chicken, will I turn green?’ And I’m, like, ‘You eat chicken already, right? Have you grown feathers and a beak?’”

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“The classic thing people say with molecular biology is: Are you playing God? Well, no. We are using our understanding of biological processes to see if we can benefit a system that is in trauma.”

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