example46 The off-target effects could create larger risks than the editing
technique aims to fix.47 The human genome can be altered with unknown
B. Gene Drives and Biosecurity
CRISPR provides a precise method of targeting, snipping, and inserting
exact pieces of a genome.49 The trait then becomes transmissible from
generation to generation. This means that the use of such “gene drives”
could, for example, reprogram mosquito genomes to eliminate malaria—this
would reverse mosquito resistance to herbicides and pesticides, wiping out
invasive species.50 Transgenic mosquitoes could be released to limit the
spread of mosquito–borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.51
CRISPR Cas9 allows for precise cutting of sequences specified by guide
RNA molecules to “edit nearly any gene in sexually reproducing
Preferred traits can rapidly enter a species population; as a result, it is
possible, for example, to reengineer mosquitos so they cannot spread malaria
or plants for drought resistance.53 Populations of organisms can be altered by
“adding, disrupting, or editing genes or suppressed by propagating treatise
that reduce reproductive capacity.”54
The problem of biosecurity is multi-faceted.55 CRISPR’s ease of use and
access to materials means that dangerous outcomes can result from Do-It-Yourself (DIY) biology, biohacking, and neighborhood labs.56 Second,
research on animal species can have effects on entire ecosystems, such as an
altered organism escaping into the wild.57 Finally, what about weaponization
and the threat of bioterrorism?58 Pathogens could be engineered for
biological attacks on a large scale against humans or against the food supply
47. See Gerstein, supra note 25 (“Subtle changes, for example, intended to affect only
genetic diseases, could have unknown consequences….”).
50. Kenneth A. Oye et al., Regulating Gene Drives, 345 SCI. 626, 626 (2014).
53. Gerstein, supra note 25.
54. Oye et al., supra note 50, at 626.
55. See generally id.
56. See Gerstein, supra note 25 (The parade of horribles is quite impressive: creating
diseases in humans, producing disease susceptibility through changes in the immune system,
causing expression of harmful factors for health, to list a few.)