Gene Editing to create 'designer babies' will cause our nation’s next huge divide

Gene editing could create a divide in America between those who can afford it and those who cannot. (Corey Freer/The Daily Campus

Gene editing could create a divide in America between those who can afford it and those who cannot. (Corey Freer/The Daily Campus

Gene editing is not brand new technology, but recently it has gained a reputation of holding a great deal of promise to scientists in the eugenics field and many Americans. Gene editing is a type of technology in which scientists can alter the genome of an organism by inserting, deleting, or replacing a section of its DNA. This, in turn, changes the organism’s genotype permanently. Currently, this technology is being utilized mainly for research purposes, especially regarding research on how to eliminate certain genetically inherited disorders and diseases. However, the future of genome editing is unclear. Some worry that in the future, instead of using this technology for the purpose of eradicating disease, people may use it instead to make “designer babies” who have specific traits hand-picked out for them before the embryo is even implanted. Although these designer babies are not currently the main focus of these technologies, this is a possibility for the future. However, while developing this technology may be an important step for our country to take in some regards, there are many potential consequences to be considered.  

My main concern for implementing this technology is that it will create a new kind of segregation within the population of  our country.  In a Ted Talk, Paul Knoepfler, an Austrian biologist, discusses a very possible situation of a friendship between two girls.  One, Maryann, is a natural child meaning that she has not been genetically modified.  The other girl, Jenna, is a “designer baby” with “extra upgrades”.  The girls are best friends and go to school together but soon the differences between the two girls become too prominent to ignore.  Jenna is very smart and beautiful and exceptional at all tasks she attempts.  She is eventually asked to transfer to a different school that is full of other genetically modified children that are extraordinary just like her.  Maryann notices the change and automatically asks if it is because Jenna is better than her.  What begins as a simple choice made between two parents deciding whether or not to edit the genes of their child becomes a competition of superiority between children.

“What if designer babies are thought to be fashionable?”

As Americans, we are slaves to our technology and social media; whenever a new trend appears on the top of our timelines it usually takes little time for us to begin following that trend.  There is a definite possibility that “designer babies” could become America’s next social media trend.  
Another issue with gene editing is that when the technology is out on the market for the “general” public to use, it won’t be the general public who will not actually be able to take advantage of its opportunities.  Paul Knoepfler mentions that Jenna’s fantastic abilities that make her superior to her friend Maryann cost her parents millions of dollars.  So, just like every new headway made in the technological world, this option to create a “designer baby” will only be available to the extremely wealthy families.  This again will start to spread the message that being rich comes hand-in-hand with being superior to the people who cannot afford expensive treatments for their children.

This technology is appealing to people because it will provide the opportunity to cure many diseases and disabilities that, up until now, were untreatable.  For example, gene editing could put an end to AIDS and put a stop to many mental disabilities.  But what message are we sending those citizens of America with mental disabilities if we advertise that there is a way to prevent babies from being like them?  The definition of the American Dream is, “‘life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement’ regardless of social class or circumstances of birth”. Isn’t America all about inclusion and being given equal opportunity?  By comparing people to a measuring stick of unachievable societal norms, we are demanding that everyone in America be born and shaped from the exact same cookie cutter mold.  This in itself will cause more problems to arise.  Americans will be so quick to get this new technology that they won’t stop and think of the harm it could do to the future generations.


Kaitlyn Pierce is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached be reached via email at kaitlyn.pierce@ucon.edu.