14 November 2016
Dear President Trump,
In our ever changing world, the constant advancement of technology is one of the driving forces for improvements to our interactions with others, enrichment of our quality of life, and the shaping of our society. Once again, technology is on the cusp of revolutionizing the way we live. Imagine a world where people are more intelligent, disease is cured, and almost everyone is an athlete. Life is longer, cooperation is higher, people can live in a wider array of environments, and their bodies can process all types of food more efficiently. This is a world that could be made possible through advances in human genetic engineering; however, a plethora of challenges stand in the path to creating this world. Complex issues involving research with embryos and tampering with human DNA will need addressing sooner rather than later. Changing the fabric of humanity brings up an ethical debate on how far we should allow ourselves to go. Unforeseen negative implications of the advancement of human genetic engineering are a major concern as well. I strongly advocate that you support smart, effective legislation that allows research into this incredibly promising technology yet places clear limits and restrictions on research to allow it to occur carefully and ethically.
Oftentimes when exposed to this potentially species-changing technology, people respond by claiming that we should not mess with our complex and not entirely understood DNA; they say those kind of alterations are best left to God or nature. While understandable, this concern is misguided because humankind has been altering nature since we began walking the earth millions of years ago. Farming interferes with the natural order of plants, yet it is a vital pillar of human civilization. Interfering with the human DNA is simply the next step in the advancement of the human species. If it is done extremely carefully and intelligently, unforeseen side effects will be dealt with. Another concern with genetic engineering is that the research and testing required to implement it is unethical. Research requiring the destruction of embryonic stem cells often comes under fire for destroying human life; however, new research using pluripotent stem cells can create a similar cell that only requires someone’s stem cells to create. A potential side effect of controlling the genome would be the marketing of certain genetic traits. One parent would certainly want their child to be smarter and stronger than his or her peers, but would they truly want to live in a world where constant enhancements of the human genome were the norm? This may lead to a wider wage gap, with rich children becoming genetically superior to their poor counterparts. One doesn’t have to look far into the past to recall the death and terror eugenics can cause for those deemed imperfect. During the Nazi regime, Hitler and other Nazi leaders attempted to create a master race with “perfect” genetics. Millions died in this attempt. To prevent this mentality, it is vital that clear guidelines for the growth and proper use of this technology be set quickly. If they are followed, genetic engineering will improve society rather than hinder it.
Genetic engineering has a massive potential to eradicate many diseases and ailments in the near future. The instructions for almost every function of our bodies can be found in the tiny molecules of DNA. Quite often, tiny errors in these intricate patterns can lead to diseases. Using modified viruses or techniques not yet discovered, one day scientists may be able to change the DNA in all the affected cells to cure genetic diseases. While some argue that only the rich will be able to afford these complicated cures, I would argue that it could reduce the class divide. For example, current dyslexia treatments are expensive, with thousands of poor families being forced to deal with this disease without medical assistance. A genetic “vaccination” for dyslexia could be provided for every child born in America, reducing the class divide. This vaccination would be universal and affordable because government-funded research would have reduced the cost of genetic manipulation. A great deal of the more serious diseases such as down’s syndrome, cystic fibrosis, and Huntington’s disease could be cured before birth as well, preventing needless pain or abortions. For this reason, it is our duty to ensure that this research continues in the correct fashion.
While the full power of genetic engineering can truly have a powerful positive effect in the world, it will never reach its full potential if it is used improperly. If research continues without any restrictions, unethical experiments with horrible effects could ruin its chance of ever being accepted or allowed by the American public. If research is ethical but the implementation of the technology is not, then a “genobility” of smarter and stronger elites could rise to control those who cannot afford enhancements. To prevent these dystopian-sounding futures, clear lines need to be set for researchers to follow. For now, genetic engineering should only be allowed for the curing of diseases. As it becomes cheaper and more developed, a regulatory board of well-informed members should make decisions on how and where it is implemented. In this way, it can be insured that all benefit rather than a few.
While it may seem that the genetic engineering of human beings is a problem for future generations to discuss, it is vitally important that legislation controlling and encouraging its development be passed in this country soon. Science races forward into new discoveries and possibilities every day. You, as president, can lead this country down a path that leads to the betterment of all lives or hinder our improvement for decades. Other countries will be creating these cures, but our country can show leadership to the world by showing them how to research ethically. This is an important cornerstone in our history; do not let this important issue go unnoticed.
Green, Ronald M. "Human Genetic Engineering Should Be Allowed." Genetic Engineering, edited by Noel Marino, Greenhaven Press, 2013. Opposing Viewpoints. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, ic.galegroup.com/ic/ovic/ViewpointsDetailsPage/ViewpointsDetailsWindow?disableHighlighting=false&displayGroupName=Viewpoints&currPage=&dviSelectedPage=&scanId=&query=&prodId=OVIC&search_within_results=&p=OVIC&mode=view&catId=&limiter=&display-query=&displayGroups=&contentModules=&action=e&sortBy=&documentId=GALE%7CEJ3010138292&windowstate=normal&activityType=&failOverType=&commentary=&source=Bookmark&u=lafa43079&jsid=8c4b4741ce4b43b15528b43bc912973a. Accessed 10 Nov. 2016. Originally published as "Building Baby from the Genes Up" in Washington Post, 13 Apr. 2008.
Hayes, Richard. "New Genetic Engineering Technology Needs to Be Regulated." Genetic Engineering, edited by Noel Marino, Greenhaven Press, 2013. Opposing Viewpoints. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, ic.galegroup.com/ic/ovic/ViewpointsDetailsPage/ViewpointsDetailsWindow?disableHighlighting=&displayGroupName=Viewpoints&currPage=&dviSelectedPage=&scanId=&query=&prodId=OVIC&search_within_results=&p=OVIC&mode=view&catId=&limiter=&display-query=&displayGroups=&contentModules=&action=e&sortBy=&documentId=GALE%7CEJ3010138407&windowstate=normal&activityType=&failOverType=&commentary=&source=Bookmark&u=lafa43079&jsid=0b9e8fdd2e5538a8f558ec27e26c3e8f. Accessed 11 Nov. 2016. Excerpt originally published in Is There an Emerging International Consensus on the Proper Uses of the New Human Genetic Technologies?, vol. 8, 2008.
Lewis, Andy. "Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells: An Amazing Breakthrough in the Stem Cell Debate." Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Research Is More Ethical than Embryonic Stem Cell Research, edited by Jacqueline Langwith, Greenhaven Press, 2012. Opposing Viewpoints. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, ic.galegroup.com/ic/ovic/ViewpointsDetailsPage/ViewpointsDetailsWindow?disableHighlighting=false&displayGroupName=Viewpoints&currPage=&scanId=&query=&prodId=OVIC&search_within_results=&p=OVIC&mode=view&catId=&limiter=&display-query=&displayGroups=&contentModules=&action=e&sortBy=&documentId=GALE%7CEJ3010453247&windowstate=normal&activityType=&failOverType=&commentary=&source=Bookmark&u=lafa43079&jsid=9c9bac1dfc6ee97baacb7ff93a87a24c. Accessed 11 Nov. 2016.