Even if this week’s news – that He Jiankui, a Chinese scientist, has produced gene-edited babies – had been found to be false, it would only have been a matter of time before someone did it successfully. The technique used for gene-editing, called CRISPR-Cas9, is relatively simple to use and a decent laboratory anywhere in the world will be able to carry it out.
You can’t un-invent this. And if you try to ban it, you’ll drive the industry underground, which means only the unscrupulous and the shady will have access to it, and good people won’t. Gene editing is not like nuclear weapons whose manufacture needs a lot of money, lots of space, a complicated global supply chain and government support. As Sandhya Ramesh reports in ThePrint, you can order a gene-editing kit online for $159. So, it is something that a good laboratory technician can do without too much money or attracting too much attention.