There has always been an interest in genetic modification of life on earth. The possibilities of what scientists can do with this information is both interesting and concerning. What is preventing scientists from taking advantage of the opportunities that genetic modification provides is society’s views on the bioethics of doing so. There have been questions whether scientists should alter the outcome of a family tree or the next stage of human evolution. Some religious beliefs say that genetic modification is violating the way God created each individual. Since these beliefs also suggest that human life begins at conception, experimenting on embryos – something that is necessary for genetic modification, would be akin to murder. On the other hand, there is also the idea that modifying a human life form before it’s born could help prevent diseases. The practice of genetically modifying a human embryo, if used for this purpose,  would only be used to improve quality of life, and not for determining something more superficial like an individual’s phenotype. Using genetic modification to make someone taller, or change the color of their eyes should not be the purpose of genetic modification.  However, not allowing scientists to use genetic modification to alter disease because of some individual’s religious beliefs is short sighted.

In 2015 congress voted to ban government funding for genetic modification of human embryos. Republicans were threatening to shut down the government, however they were able to include this ban in a much larger spending bill that eventually was passed. Congress wanted to avoid a government shutdown and passed the bill. What sparked this desire to ban funding for genetic modifications was new technology enabling scientists to alter the genomes of any organisms in a very precise manner. This technology is known as CRISPR/Cas9. An article from Business Insider quotes Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at NYU Langone Medical Center “who said, ‘it’s irresponsible to cut off funding for something that has the potential to cure genetic disease.’”  The bill that eventually passed said that no government funding should be used for researchin which a human embryo is intentionally created or modified to include a heritable genetic modification.” Others were afraid that this type of research would lead to the ability to produce “designer babies” and they did not want to encourage this with government funding.

This ban, while it prevents scientists from accessing government funding for research on genetically modifying human embryos, may give scientists time to perfect this preactive by contemplating its methods and implications.. A recent Pew survey revealed that many United States citizens are uneasy with the idea of gene editing. In this light, providing more time for scientists to think about how to perfect these techniques and how to ensure that they are used in the proper manner might not be a bad thing. But, some people believe this will stall the development of science in our nation. Alex Perlman, writing for Motherboard states, “As the biotech revolution accelerates globally, the US could be getting left behind on key technological advances: namely, human genetic modification.” This article goes on to talk about the moral issue of not providing the best care for individuals with genetic disease. “We are on the cusp of being able to do [gene editing] safely, and the prospect of a telling a parent that they won’t have access to these therapies is morally untenable,” said bioethicist James Hughes, who is the executive director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.

The benefits of expanding this area of science by allowing the appropriate genetic modification of  human embryos far outweighs the risks associated with this practice. Funding in this area not only should be allowed but expanded.

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CC BY-SA 4.0 Why Congress Should Not Ban Genetically Modifying of Human Embryos by Angelica is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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3 Comments
  1. Chloe Hadden 5 months ago

    Dear Angelica,

    In your argument, there were both pros and cons in funding for Genetic Modification. While you are for it, we, on the other hand, are both for it and against it. With that, when you supported your argument from the quote from Arthur Caplan from NYU Langone Medical Center, “‘it’s irresponsible to cut off funding for something that has the potential to cure genetic disease.’”,” it really swayed the view of the readers. But when you had used the statement and analysis of, “Others were afraid that this type of research would lead to the ability to produce “designer babies” and they did not want to encourage this with government funding,” this contradicted your whole statement because it shows what the problem with genetically modifying the embryos. As shown we have found the cons of such modification. Within the article of National Geographic, it states, “Certainly we need to know as much as possible about the risks of gene-editing human embryos before such research can proceed. But when the suffering and death caused by such terrible single-gene disorders as cystic fibrosis and Huntington’s disease might be averted, the decision to delay such research should not be made lightly.” This fact is very true. If the child is suffering from a genetic disease and their lives could be saved, then we should fund this cause, but then again, the process of natural selection comes into play. This is supported when the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine proves in their report, “The technology would therefore cross a line many have viewed as ethically inviolable.” Diseases and mutations are completely natural and this might be considered playing god. But also with the problem of over population, if every baby has a higher chance of survival, there could be a problem with overpopulation. Also, if we do not know as much as we should about the effects of modifying genetics, there could be a huge after effect that could cause massive problems in society. This is proven by National Geographic, “Finally, there’s the argument that modifying genomes is inherently dangerous because we can’t know all the ways it will affect the individual.” There could be a malfunction in the editing and effect the child in disastrous ways. By then, our biggest problems won’t be if our child has a cleft lip or not.
    Sincerely,
    Chloe, Mallory, And Samantha

    Works Cited
    Angelica. “Why Congress Should Not Ban Genetically Modifying of Human Embryos.” Youth Voices, 13 Mar. 2018, http://www.youthvoices.live/2018/02/11/why-congress-should-not-ban-genetically-modifying-of-human-embryos/.
    Connor, Steve. “First Human Embryos Edited in U.S., Using CRISPR.” MIT Technology Review, MIT Technology Review, 29 Dec. 2017, http://www.technologyreview.com/s/608350/first-human-embryos-edited-in-us/.
    Porostocky, Thomas. “Pro and Con: Should Gene Editing Be Performed on Human Embryos?” National Geographic, 19 Oct. 2017, http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/08/human-gene-editing-pro-con-opinions/.
    Sample, Ian. “Major Report Prepares Ground for Genetic Modification of Human Embryos.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 14 Feb. 2017, http://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/feb/14/major-report-prepares-ground-for-genetic-modification-of-human-embryos.

  2. Ziqiu 5 months ago

    Dear Angelica,

    After my group read your argument, and discussed about it, we have decided we do not agree with your claim that funding for the genetic modification of human embryos should be allowed and expanded. You did make a very good point when you talked about the potential to cure diseases with genetic modification But there are far more problems than there are benefits for example the creation of designer babies. According to The Embryo Project Encyclopedia, a designer baby is “...a baby genetically engineered in vitro for specially selected traits, which can vary from lowered disease-risk to gender selection” This is a problem in our opinion because everyone could be created, and most likely, parents will want a perfect looking kid meaning everyone looks perfect. And when everyone is perfect, then no one is perfect. What we are trying to say is that funding for genetically modifying human embryos should not be allowed. There is a lot of evidence that this is a very unsafe practice as well. According to technologyreview.com says this “The earlier Chinese publications, although limited in scope, found CRISPR caused editing errors and that the desired DNA changes were taken up not by all the cells of an embryo, only some. That effect, called mosaicism, lent weight to arguments that germline editing would be an unsafe way to create a person.” On the contrary, it could also be said that if we start genetically modifying human embryos we could live longer and healthier lives. This may seem like a good thing but doing this may have very bad effects on our genetic diversity. If we allow people to make their children look and behave however they wanted them to be, we are at risk for loss of genetic diversity, This means that everyone would act and look identical. This would be a very bad thing because currently America has a very diverse population American, Asian, African American, European. Allowing people to genetically modify humans could result in basically a bunch of clones. In conclusion, Funding for genetically modifying human embryos should not be allowed for many reasons.

    Sincerely,

    Zach and Ziqiu

    Works cited
    Porostocky, Thomas. “Pro and Con: Should Gene Editing Be Performed on Human Embryos?” National Geographic, National Geographic, 19 Oct. 2017, http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/08/human-gene-editing-pro-con-opinions/.

    Plumer, Brad. “This New Report on the Future of Genetically Engineered Humans Is Essential Reading.” Vox, Vox, 15 Feb. 2017, http://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/2/15/14613878/national-academy-genome-editing-humans.

    Connor, Steve. “First Human Embryos Edited in U.S., Using CRISPR.” MIT Technology Review, MIT Technology Review, 29 Dec. 2017, http://www.technologyreview.com/s/608350/first-human-embryos-edited-in-us/.
    Ly, Sarah. “The Embryo Project Encyclopedia.” Ethics of Designer Babies | The Embryo Project Encyclopedia, 31 Mar. 2011, embryo.asu.edu/pages/ethics-designer-babies.

    “Pros and Cons of Genetic Engineering.” Conserve Energy Future, Conserve Energy Future, 9 Dec. 2017, http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/pros-and-cons-of-genetic-engineering.php.

  3. Judge Thomas 7 months ago

    Angelica,

    If found your post to be very informative. The argument in the possibility of life created within a lab or humans playing the role of God is very controversial. At this point in our lives, the discussion in the genetic modification of foods continues to be a heated debate topic. If genetically modifying foods are such a heated topic, genetically modifying humans would be at its most controversial. I think that the research portion which scientists pursue to find ways to make this work is remarkable, however, an ethical question seems to become the end result of whether or not to implement a lab grown human embryo into the scientific community. One website that is one of my favorite to find research and may help your interests is https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK447270/. You can scroll down and click any of the chapters/sections in the book! Again, great post!

    -Thomas

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