Gene Drive and its Ethical Dilemma

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Technology is constantly changing. It has a big impact on all of our lives. Like anything in this world, it has pros and cons. It is no doubt that we have all benefited from some sort of technology, from a simple coffee grinder to a complex and big spacecraft.

Technology has been a powerful tool in the past and now more than ever. Gene drive is one example of advanced technology. It is an attempt to improve the genetic makeup and composition of human beings. It lets us edit life in new ways. One form of gene drive is eugenics. It involves cutting, adding, and/or removing specific genes to get the desired effect. In simple words, it is deciding what kind of life is brought into the world.

Gene drive opens doors for improving life. It also opens doors for destroying the law of hereditary and causing an uncontrollable outcome. In history, there are many horrific incidents involving gene drive and eugenics. Many people had the idea that the white race was better. Adolf Hitler tried to make a superior race with gene drive. People who weren’t selectively bred were at a disadvantage of not being able to fit in the “highly advantaged society.” In the early twentieth century, people in California were forced to have sterilizations. It was mostly performed on minorities. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that forced sterilization does not violate the Constitution, in fact, it gets rid of the “undesired species.” Puerto Rico enforced the same rule on women who lived in poverty and about 25 to 50 percent of Native Americans were also forced to be sterilized. All of this was in an attempt to improve the human race.  

One of the biggest advantages of gene drive is parents being able to know if their child will have any negative hereditary conditions and possibly to engineer the genetic makeup of the child to avoid such problems. This brings us back to the idea of having a highly advantaged society. Why do some people get to have a say in what they bring into the world and some don’t? I am well aware that not many people can afford to engineer the genetic makeup of their child. Hypothetically speaking, if people can do such things then it creates a big society divide. Gene drive, especially eugenics, is based on Nazi ideology so diversity will be long gone. It can also cause more problems as more and more genetically similar offspring are produced and the gene pool gets shallower.

On the other hand, gene drive can potentially help lessen the number of people who suffer from complicated hereditary abnormalities. For instance, Spinal muscular atrophy also known as SMA is known to be one of the worst genetic disorders. It is a recessive gene that causes a lot of muscle abnormalities, respiratory failure, scoliosis, delayed gross motor skills and so much more. The life expectancy for people with SMA is very low, hard to make it past infancy in most cases. Eugenics can be a helpful tool in this case, but it will still bring us back to the division of society. Only people with money will have the option of changing the genetic makeup of their children. Poor people will still be affected by SMA while the rich get to live life even more comfortable. The society gap will get bigger and bigger.

This advanced technology messes with the flow of nature and the law of hereditary. It gives the ability to cure diseases that were known to be incurable. Currently, CRISPR technology has been used to make two babies immune to HIV and they are also working on a genetic treatment for autism. How great would it be to lead a life without sickness? How great would it be to be immune to HIV? But this disrupts the flow of life. If we were living without sickness and the challenge that arises from that, we would be leading our lives differently. I think it is scarier to have a genetic pool that is shallower and the genetic problems that come from that are more severe. Gene drive lets you change an entire generation. Does the current generation have the right to decide the fate of the future generation? Gene drive remains a big ethical dilemma. It depends on how and when it is applied. It depends if it is used to make sure your child’s eye color turns out blue because you can’t stand brown eyes or if you are using it to prevent your child from going through so much pain and many abnormalities. But, I fear that such a powerful technology might open doors to many atrocities and destruction to the human race. Even in cases like SMA, we have no guarantee that we will restrict ourselves to just curing genetic abnormalities. It will be hard to not want to satisfy our desires.

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