Imagine the perfect baby, your perfect baby, with all the desired traits you want. Green eyes, any complexion, wavy hair, high IQ, you name it. Scientists and doctors call the process human embryonic gene editing. Using the tool Crispr-Cas9, these molecular scissors insert, remove or add on to the DNA sequence. Although gene editing can be helpful in correcting diseases, it can also be ruinous. What will happen to our future generations?
For over a decade, human embryonic gene editing has been in and out of the spotlight. Scientists have been experimenting for years, but China was the first country to successfully do so when, in 2015, researchers used “non-viable” embryos to modify the gene of a potentially fatal blood disorder. Today, there is much debate about the ethics of gene editing, and it is currently forbidden in the United States with strict regulations.
Where gene therapies aren’t banned, the price is still huge. Slate reported that just one treatment is estimated to cost from $500,000 to $1.4 million. This can become a huge problem. If a richer person could spend money to design their baby with any traits they want, and a middle class person can’t afford it, this can lead to greater inequality.
Aside from the cons of gene editing, there is one brilliant pro. It can help remove harmful or hereditary diseases. The New York Times reported that scientists recently made a breakthrough in gene editing when they successfully edited the DNA of human embryos to remove a mutation that can lead to a fatal heart condition. This procedure is very important because it can help many people.
Despite the promise of gene editing to prevent diseases, gene editing can not stop all of them; diseases are natural. Our body’s immune system is the defense against harmful disease and infection. It is constantly challenged by bacteria and viruses, building itself up to fight off more threatening diseases. This system keeps us strong and our bodies functioning well. Trying to eliminate all diseases in the future through gene editing can cause more damaging, unknown problems that humans may never be able to fix.
Another problem is that future generation have completely no say in this. If a parent edits their child’s appearance for their personal preference, the child has not given their consent. There are already beauty standards that our society follows and fetishizes: Blonde hair and blue eyes, lighter or darker complexions, curly or straight hair, and even mixed ethnicities. This procedure is giving anyone the option to now fulfill their fetish.
People born in this world are here to be accepted and loved no matter what. Birth is natural and beautiful because everyone has their own features and characteristics that make them unique. But if gene editing continues, how many people will be walking around looking like clones? How do you think one would feel if they found out they were worked on like a toy? The biggest question might be, “Why?”