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Scientists can edit the genes of babies before they’re born -- But should they?

Last Updated Dec 3, 2018 at 3:32 pm EDT

In this Oct. 10, 2018, photo, scientist He Jiankui speaks during an interview in Shenzhen in southern China's Guandong province. China's government on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018, ordered a halt to work by a medical team that claimed to have helped make the world's first gene-edited babies. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Last week a Chinese scientist announced that he had successfully created the world’s first gene-edited babies — twin girls born from embryos altered to make them resistant to HIV. It’s a story that seems more profound the longer you spend thinking about the implications. Until you arrive at the big question: Did the world just change?

The reaction to the news has been intense, to put it mildly. The researcher at the heart of this story has already been suspended by the Chinese government. But in the big picture, that matters less than the if-then at the core of this. If this technology is out in the world, then will it be used? By whom? To do what? What does the world look like if this technology becomes widely available? What does the world look like if it doesn’t? Because it’s not like banning it will undo the fact that it exists.

THE BIG STORY PODCAST GUEST: Daniel Munro, Visiting scholar, Munk school of global affairs and public policy

Today’s Podcast – Will gene editing technology change the world?


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