CRISPR, or “clustered regularly-interspaced short palindromic repeats,” is a repetition in the DNA sequences of bacterial viruses. The bacteria copy the DNA sequences of attacking viruses and use them to protect from future attacks. Paired with DNA sequence-snipping enzymes called Cas (CRISPR-associated), scientists can snip and replace very specific pieces of mutated genes.
CRISPR is currently being used to study the basics of genes and DNA within cells. So far, scientists aren’t trying to cure diseases, but that statement may not apply to the future. Plant geneticist, Jan Leach, studies the diseases of plants, and although technology has hindered his ability to reverse many of the diseases he has studied, Leach hopes CRISPR will help him “make plants that are resistant to different pathogens.”
While the possibility of altering the life of plants and the earth seems enticing, where is the line drawn? A biologist is someone who studies nature, and often has a deep respect for it— but when does that respect and knowledge turn into domination?
I believe that an ethical line is crossed with CRISPR. We can all acknowledge that the Earth has survived without the help of humans. If anything, man has hindered the Earth’s ability to adapt and survive. I believe that scientists should help reverse the harmful effects of current technologies, not make the environment immune to harm.
Some people think that CRISPR should be used for the good of humans by making non-reproductive cells and embryos viable. Some scientists believe this will help the human race survive. But do we really need help surviving? Again, my mind turns to the bigger picture. Are human lives really the most valuable thing on Earth? More valuable than the rivers and animals and insects? I do not think so. The Earth can live without humans, but humans cannot live without the Earth.
I believe that whatever happens to our species, and everything else on earth, will be due to harm we have brought to the environment. We should not work to make humans immune to the environment we have created, but to reverse the damages and steer technology away from pollutants. Humans will always find a way to survive, but if we destroy the Earth, there will be nowhere to do so.