Genetically Modified Organisms

  • They are massively useful tools
  • We need to always be in the lead in their development and proper implementation 

   For the first time in the history of our planet, we have the knowledge and ability to intelligently edit and design species.   It's a power at least on par with the discovery and development of nuclear arms. 

   Advancements such as the discovery and use of Cas9/CRISPR allows us to edit DNA with so much fidelity that researchers have compared it to cutting and pasting a word document.  

   Because of our fear of this technology, we're already falling behind in its development. China has used CRISPR on at least 86 people since 2015.  So far, it’s been used to treat patients with HIV, B-cell leukemia, and cancers of the kidney, lung, liver, throat, and stomach.  The US hasn't seen a single human use.

   This is a field of study that we cannot take a back seat on.  This is happening right now in other countries around the world.  The ability to repair and rebuild all life at this level has implications we can’t possibly imagine.  It will grow into one of the most widespread and essential industries on earth.  We absolutely can't allow ourselves to seed every major discovery in this field to other nations.  This is a moral and financial imperative.

   We need to allow our researchers to work with this field in every way that they can imagine.  If we continue to hold back discovery and innovation in our nation, we will not be able to compete in the global market and we will not have the tools to defend ourselves against potential threats to our habitats, our population, and our food supplies.  

   There are already ways to essentially militarize this technology by adding gene drives during the editing process. 

   In experiments this technique has been so powerful and effective, that a single organism released into the wild will spread a change to an entire species with 99% accuracy in just a few generations. 

   For insects which breed quickly such as mosquitoes, this could mean their extinction and the end of malaria in a single year.  It could also be used to quickly kill off or alter, on a planetary scale, entire species of small mammals, fish, or birds in just a couple of seasons.  Larger species which breed more slowly are altered more slowly.  But, any species can be the target or beneficiary of our new ability to reshape and create new life. 

    Along with lifting and clarifying regulations on our researchers, we need to be investing heavily in countermeasures and methods to neutralize and repair any damaging species which might be released. 

   We need to be the friendliest country for researchers in every part of this field and have the most meticulous safety measures.  We need to encourage and lead in the responsible use of this tool to stop the spread of diseases and to farm and control invasive species more efficiently and safely.

   This is a massively complex, delicate, and powerful issue.  I understand the feelings of unease or trepidation.  I have them too.  But, this is happening right now, it can't be held back, and our only option is to master it as quickly as possible. 

   Full understanding will allow us to overcome any challenge that partial understanding might cause. 

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Paid for by Joshua Williamson 2018
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