Gene editing: The latest national security threat?
- In a recent threat assessment presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee, director of national intelligence James Clapper raised concerns that genome-editing could lead to development of harmful biological agents.
- The breakthrough gene-editing technique CRISPR is already being monitoring by the Pentagon, the FBI, and the United Nations bioweapons office, according to Stat.
- One of the main concerns is the use of gene drives—a gene that is tweaked and then inherited by offspring, essentially changing the evolutionary process for that line.
The report highlights the advances made in genome editing over the last year. Research by countries with different regulatory standards than the U.S. "probably increases the risk of the creation of potentially harmful biological agents or products."
The potential implications of CRISPR and gene editing overall are massive, with difficult-to-predict consequences. Biosecurity experts have envisioned doomsday scenarios where gene drives inserted into insects spread lethal diseases or, alternatively, kill insects needed for pollinating crops.
However, in the report, Clapper tempered his concern over genome editing. "Researchers will probably continue to encounter challenges to achieve the desired outcome of their genome modifications in part because of the technical limitations that are inherent in available genome editing systems," the report said.
The National Academy of Sciences has separately said bioweapons still generally require state-level resources to manufacture.
- statnews.com Genome-editing is deemed US national security threat