regulations and agreements.”73
The authors want “lead time” to assess these genomic technologies: they
propose “adopting a function-based approach that defines risk in terms of the
ability to influence any key biological component the loss of which would be
sufficient to cause harm to humans or other species of interest.”74 They
advocate a safety control that slows the risk vector release, proposing that
“…concepts and applications should be published in advance of construction,
testing, and release.”75 This is a good idea that needs an effective risk
management regulatory body to implement.
C. Human Germ Line Research: The Effect on “Humanness”
Greely summarizes the reasons why human germline genomic
modification is unlikely to be pursued: safety issues, low medical demand
and non-medical demand, and its controversial nature.76 Such modifications
are constrained by public controversy and unease over manipulating the
human genome.77 Critics worry about the side effects of such manipulation
for society, such as the fostering of inequality as rich parents seek to create
enhanced children with improved intelligence or other traits as a result of
germline editing.78 Is the power of CRISPR to alter genetic makeup going to
outstrip evolution and normal mating? Or is choice and enhancement part of
what we need to survive as the world changes rapidly around us?
Some critics see human germline modification as playing God with core
dimensions of humanness, an action that should not be undertaken without a
robust ethical discussion about what it means.79 In fact, one critic has argued
in fact that nothing “short of a complete and total ban on human germline
modification will do….”80 On the other hand, proponents of CRISPR such
as Steven Pinker note that parental selection of offspring traits is nothing
new, and, in his words, “…[g]enetic editing would be a droplet in the
maelstrom of naturally churning genomes.”81 For example, we allow in vitro
76. Greely, supra note 42.
77. See id.
78. Skerrett, supra note 43 (statement by Steven Pinker regarding parents who want to
select the traits for their offspring as a risk of germline editing) (“We affect the genetic makeup
of our offspring, and the species, every time we choose one sex partner over another. And each
of us introduces dozens of mutations into our own germlines by exposing ourselves to
everyday radiation and chemical mutagens. Genetic editing would be a droplet in the
maelstrom of naturally churning genomes.”).
79. See generally Robert Pollack, Eugenics Lurk in the Shadow of CRISPR, 348 SCI. 871