The Rules for Genetic Modification

The Rules for Genetic Modification

  • August 13, 2020

How we protect ourselves, from ourselves

The human genome project was a momentous feat of human engineering, in the years since we have only just started to tap into the profoundly complex work of decoding use and understanding the interconnection of our DNA. When considering the real-world examples of genetic manipulation and design, the ethical and technical ramifications of these practices, and barriers to consistent study, we can develop a methodology and implementation framework for optimal genetic engineering.

Global collaboration and policy

US scientists have already decided to rule out cloning until the socio-ethical conversation supports the scientific application, but this demonstrates the lag between discovery, mastery and legislation. The UN has passed a resolution on the matter, but there is a divide in reception by member states. This lag is often noted in other fields of society, where lawmakers wait until society starts reacting to a change before setting out rules for the industry or sector. Genetic engineering should be banned worldwide on a commercial endeavour until it reaches maturity through institutional and research labs- partnering with companies could fuel the innovation rate, but market use should be restricted. Without any real consistent policy banning cloning, it continues and can potentially create an unethical organ market for the rich (gaps develop black-market establishment), modifying food can lead to unknown health consequences on human and crop genetic adaptations and abnormalities. Embryonic editing can potentially make generations vulnerable to collapse (while cost barriers to “designer babies” can make a two-tiered population).

These problems are starting with our current capabilities, as ‘the west’ mulls over and have hazy/inconsistent ethical policy, scientific countries like china hold no reserve for the development of the field of biological engineering. The disconnect in policy and ethics is why genetic research, experimentation and non-educational applications of genetics should be regulated by the international community and enforced with an enforceable international tribunal with global jurisdiction. The implications of genetic manipulation can create a drastic effect on the human population, health and viability. With the creation of the CRISPR, genetic coding has become drastically easier, opening the threat of biological warfare and attacks that could destroy entire populations with impunity and little time to react. The lack of swift action has only created an echo chamber in which members of society enlightened to the ramifications of genetic engineering are repeatedly advocating for policy and a global understanding of the consequences in each genetic engineering development.

An international policy outlining the ethical and practical research of genetic modification can make the development process safer, more efficient and protect society from the negative ramifications of the field. An equally and more immediately pressing issue is the use of genetic testing by life insurance companies, which leads to genetic discrimination. Few countries have banned the practice, but this issue should become the new level of anti-discrimination human rights adopted by the international community ratified in local jurisdictions. One could argue that because race is an arbitrary cultural mechanism dictated by genetic variation that it is slightly covered, but clear legal definitions and laws should be made to make this right absolute everywhere in the age of genetic science and engineering.

International agreements on genetic engineering must have the following aspects to be sufficient:

International collaboration platform and findings sharing:

A lot of the progress in genetic engineering is slowed down by institutions repeating and duplicating studies for no real reason. More duplication than needed occurs in the genetic engineering field than needed to merely check study validity or target research to a product/use; this comes about from lack of access to existing progress in the field of study and the siloed effect of individual efforts repeating the same steps, for individual databases.

Developing a common platform for international experimentation methodologies, findings comparison tools, peer review markers, and codified knowledgebase can create more methods closer in-sync with natural ways to isolate gene functions and cohesively progress the field of research. These types of innovations will lower the rate of institutions experimenting on the same gene, in the same way, lead to gene function specialization and make cross interaction analysis easier as all the data is in a format that leads to advanced computation and insights from the shared database. Collaboration in mice flocks and other aspects of genetic information is currently available from several different sources. However, an international effort should include a composite database (an American example), and use should become standard practise to make the development of genetic engineering streamlined and efficient.

This idea of a composite database can also make gene editing and manipulation safer in the future. Having all the researched data in a single platform with industry-standard metrics can make the deployment of artificial intelligence more useful in analyzing genetic information and developing gene-editing simulations based on the type of gene editing and intervention planned/the desired outcome. With enough development, this system could tell us the likelihood of adverse outcomes, vulnerabilities and missing knowledge points when pursuing genetic engineering on embryonic humans, living humans, crops and animals.

The use of artificial intelligence in research databases can also give us a timeframe for when genetic engineering has matured enough to implement in policy for non-research based use. Understanding the intricacy of data manipulation and variable control can lead to an in-depth understanding of the consequences of genetic engineering on the subject and society.

Long term studies

Longitudinal studies can help us better understand the effects of modifying food and other components of our lives. We can see the genetic pattern of corn in our DNA, what will happen when we consume enough genetically modified foods? How will it impact our DNA? Will it make people more susceptible to more diseases like cancer? Like with most innovations or environmental modifications, the impact is not known until we study it and given the potential suffering that we could prevent from being proactive does not measure up to the savings that can be made from modifications. 

Studies of current marketable GMO’s such as rice offer no negative impact, but the international policy should reflect a standard of study and impact to be adhered to before introducing genetically modified food into the consumption market at any scale. 

Especially when you think about our fast-rising population, mistakes let loose into the population have an exponential impact and can become far too pervasive to handle in our traditional capacities, so why risk it when we have the capacity to test it first? It is a choice between human wellbeing and profit, what is the ethical choice to be made?

Should there be exceptions to banning genetic engineering? Yes, there should be. The clinical use of genetic engineering for ill patients’ treatment should be allowed, given their consent. This approach is like how we’ve been studying the brain through contextual challenges, observation, study and treatment. We don’t raise people to open their heads and experiment on them, so we shouldn’t birth life to study it or use it for parts; but when the opportunity comes to both study treatment and save someone occurs, we should employ this technology and field of study to better people’s lives and learn with consent. Genetic engineering and fabrication technology offers a solution to many of our ethical disagreements to genetic engineering applications and opens up opportunities — printing organs, tissue and body parts.

Population vulnerability

The lack of understanding in genetic editing can make populations vulnerable in several ways: designed viruses, embryonic modifications and integrated susceptibilities from increased genome homogeneity. Each of these issues are centred on the isolation and manipulation of an individual’s genes without the composite understanding of genetic interconnection and coding. Removing or modifying genes could leave populations vulnerable to collapse through common environmental factors, targeted interventions or changing conditions that may no longer be protected through natural processes. Natural mating habits and population diversity protect us from outbreaks and can offer insights into shared genes; controlling gene modification on a scale more perverse then natural selection can create population vulnerabilities to contagion and bio-attacks. Genetic modification in humans can have a more significant impact due to the fact that we can never/should never reach a point of genetic unity, humans have 0.1% difference in DNA and bridging more of that difference artificially overcomes the natural process of biodiversity in our population making viruses easier to code and kill. 

Artificial Intelligence can help bridge this genetic understanding, predict population vulnerability and help combat bioterrorism efforts effectively. However, it can only do so through a controlled and rigorous research database and genetic editing application process.

Patents and property rights

Along with population vulnerabilities, patents and property rights could be potentially detrimental to the siloing and secretive use of genetic engineering. Lack of rigorous international policies for use and market control in this rising market and relevant field can make monopolies, slow research, make discoveries slower, and findings proprietary products. This can increase the likelihood of biological terrorism and the collapse of entire populations. In a corporation run gene market, they (genes) are modified or/ consumed modified products come from the same serial, format or patent (the singular control lends to a standard formula/ pattern which makes it vulnerable to manipulation). in an open market, the eventual large industry shares will lead to a market leader and an easy target. In an open market scenario where economic giants could take over and have a virtual monopoly established and maintain through innovation, subsidies, and patents, the diversity of gene editing is consolidated to their best practices and most cost-effective methods of modification. Given the potential threat, it would be both foolish and harmful to progress a patent system for genetic modification in an oppressive society with accessible tools like the CRISPR. 

Society creates the motive, and the companies create the means for terror. Reminiscent of oil conglomerates, middle east wars and the subsequent terrorism?

Oppression + subjugation = rebellion, and this is the reality of a future society that remains inequitable and profit-driven. We can prevent it now by moving past greed.

It would be much easier to make genetic modification a collaborative and research propelled intervention when needed, instead of a new market commodity and service.


• Genetic engineering should be strictly banned and research collaborated by institutions, research labs and government agencies

• All genetic research should be shared to ensure accuracy, improve reliability and enable artificial intelligence computations and simulations before practical use in the public

• Medical applications of genetic engineering should be conducted in clinical settings have comprehensive analyze of effect and procedures

• Private patents on genes should be allowed to expire and not be renewed, no new gene patents should be issued, and genes in use should be studied on longitudinal frameworks to track the implications of current use

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