The development and introduction of genetic editing tools has long since been a reality, and that makes it likely that commercial gene editing tools will begin to finish development soon (in fact some already have), which begs the question: should gene editing tools be commercially available. The following article discusses the pros and cons of gene editing tools.
The Clash of time Moralities
Invariably, this question will bring up a variety of different ethical and moral dilemmas, which many people will have varying viewpoints toward.
For example, many people still see the idea of gene editing as deeply wrong. The concept of editing our genetic makeup is frightening to many, and often with good reason. There is much that is unknown about genetic editing, particularly in terms of long-term impacts.
However, many also hold that the potential for benefit from these tools makes it morally reprehensible to not engage with and develop these tools. For example, if genetic editing has the chance to treat and even eliminate devastating illnesses and disabilities, then would it not be the responsibility of medicine to seek that outcome and embrace innovation?
On another hand still, there are those that believe it is a slippery slope to start meddling with technology that could remove “defects.” After all, it ultimately comes down to a human decision of what constitutes a defect or not, and one only needs to look at the storm of contention around the autistic community to see that there is not a consensus on that topic.
Equity and Access to Cutting-Edge Technology
As important as the question of morality is, there is also the question of equitable access to these developing technologies. After all, if gene editing tools are not made commercially available, then would that stifle access to these cutting-edge technological tools and potentially serve to hold back the development of this potentially crucial technology?
For example, there are few viable alternatives to CRISPR available and some of the best, such as Cas-CLOVER were developed commercially in response to the restrictive patents on CRISPR. As a result, the potential for commercial engagement has driven innovation and variation in the field, both of which can be incredibly important to the development of genetic editing tools (not to mention their ease of access).
Considering Real-World Context
Ultimately, it is important to consider this question with real-world context in mind. While questions of morality and ethics are incredibly important to consider, the fact is that gene editing tools (such as CRISPR) are already here. So, rather than attempting to close Pandora’s box again, it is more important to consider the question of these tools with that reality in mind.
As a result, one potential answer becomes clear: commercial use of these tools would mandate the creation of guidelines for their use—the kinds of guidelines that might not end up being created should gene editing remain in the nebulous space of scientific research. These guidelines could be incredibly important in ensuring that gene editing is not abused or misused, either commercially or for research purposes, which implies that commercial use of these tools could actually result in a net-positive.
Of course, this is just one potential interpretation and there are many more. The potency of discourse around this issue is important, so you should consider the question yourself. Do you think that gene editing tools should be commercially available?