Recently income inequality in the United States has risen to levels not seen since the years prior to the Great Depression. The gap between the rich and poor is growing wider and I fear that general inequality will become irreparable if the fabrication of all DNA present in human chromosomes is left unregulated. There is no doubt, however, that the advancements in DNA research could potentially lead to a world without many common viruses and hereditary diseases. If access to the medical advancements in DNA research are not guaranteed to all, regardless of income or background, the risks of these advancements will far outweigh the benefits.

Recently the advancement of the CRISPR–Cas9 system has allowed biologists to alter the genomes of many organisms. The system has already been used to cut out nearly 50 percent of HIV cells in rats and has also been used to treat Hemophilia B in early testing. In the near future the system may be used to ‘edit’ embryos by detecting and fixing certain genes responsible for traits like albinism, hepatitis B, and some cancers that have genetic components.

Editing embryos is a risky and irreversible path. Once these genes are changed, regardless of how beneficial the changes may be, the traits are passed on to subsequent populations. This has the potential to alter our entire species, or solely alter the populations who are privileged enough to have access to these medical breakthroughs. Many scientists have predicted that the future of the CRISPR-Cas9 system will be in this type of embryonic editing and human modification. It can be assumed that the ability to dictate your child’s intelligence or athletic ability, however, will come at a price.

Currently, many low-income Americans do not have access to the same quality of medical treatment as the wealthiest members of our society. I fear that this discrepancy in access will lead to a future where not only is a person’s wealth influenced by the family they are born into but also their intelligence or likelihood to contract deadly diseases.

If only babies of the elite and wealthy are able to possess faster developing brains, enhanced muscle structures or perfectly symmetrical faces I believe inequality will no longer be determined by a person’s income but their DNA as well. Racism is obviously based on the differing appearances of two races but can easily be dismissed by rational people who recognize that we are all biologically the same. If people are able to change their own biology and the genes of their children, racism will no longer be a nonsensical argument but a verifiable claim based on whatever genetic advantages a person may be able to buy.

Medical and technological advancements have been monumental in bridging gaps between people and reducing global poverty. This is because, for the most part, things like cell-phones, the internet, and vaccinations have been made available to even the poorest people on earth. I imagine that if DNA modification advances to the point where cancer and HIV can be eliminated the procedure will be required in the United States like many vaccinations are required today. It is the possibility of trait modification like intelligence, metabolism, or muscle structure that concerns me. If only a few privileged people have the ability to ‘design’ their children then the traits of those without modification will become increasingly undesirable to potential employers, partners and friends. The possibility, in the distant future, of two separate human species developing based on a person’s financial circumstances is a truly frightening proposition and is why the harms of these advancement far outweigh the benefits.


CC BY-SA 4.0 DNA Modification: good or bad? by Seth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Comment Here

  1. Jean-Jules 2 years ago

    I agree completely with what you are saying here Seth. I too wonder what the world would be like with genetic modification as a possibility. The fact that there might be an actual backing for racism based on DNA differences instead of just pigment differences. People will always have traits that they do not want but to me these deformities afe what make us humans, no one is perfect and everyone is special in their own way because of slight differences in genetics, but if genetic modification is a possibility, it causes that slight genetic difference to become so large that it actually makes a difference between people, causing prejudice and racism to become a viable argument that cannot be refuted because genetics have caused people to be better than other people.

  2. Ricardo 2 years ago

    Dear Seth,

    I agree that DNA modification can be used to do much good like for example biologists have been able to take away HIV cells away from rats. they have also been able to take out Hemophilia B in early testing like you said. But DNA modification can also permanently and severely damage things such as embryos or eggs. Damaged embryos can cause defects and possibly even death. The bad thing is that this DNA modification process is irreparable. This process might be the way of the future by being able to edit embryos can have a variety of good and bad outcomes.

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