February 19, 2017
Hobbyists Could Genetically Engineer Dogs

Check out: The FDA Is Cracking Down On Rogue Genetic Engineers. Apparently the US Food and Drug Administration wants to classify genetically altered dogs as drugs. When this is done to humans will they become drugs too? I think Huey Lewis has foreseen this possibility.

A substantial part of the population is going to continue to insist on owning highly inbred genetically messed up dog breeds with serious health issues (e.g. bulldogs and pugs). If you do not want to me like them then avoid the unhealthiest dog breeds. But given that these breeds will continue to exist it certainly makes sense to genetically fix the fixable ones (some are, by breed standard, probably not fixable). So genetic engineers who want to fix dogs shouldn't have to deal with the US Food and Drug Administration classifying fixed dogs as drugs. How about a list of genetic variations that the FDA and similar agencies in Europe agree ought to be eliminated and then approval of any dogs that get fixed to no longer have them.

We will find ourselves in a situation in not too many years where there's going to be a regulatory need for preapproved allowable genetic variants for a variety of species, probably including humans. What will be especially interesting about that day: Some already existing genetic variants (or perhaps weighted combination of variants that together cause a trait) will have to be banned. For example, suppose some genetic variants make very homicidal people and that these variants occur naturally. We do not (or at least most of do not want) to see people making babies that are criminally worse than their parents.

But smarter regulation (both in terms of making safe stuff easier to do and banning dangerous stuff) would help I do not think it will avoid some pretty dangerous outcomes. My long term worry is that genetic engineering will become so easy to do that a variety of people around the world will twiddle a large assortment of species for a large assortment of goals, some of which will have calamitous effects. Some people could have religious or ideological motivations to cause mayhem among their enemies. Others will just be random people wanting to make themselves famous by, for example, creating a fish that wipe out all other types of fish in a major river or by making a plant that spells out a political message in its leaves. Lots of imaginations will think about it and once it becomes easy to do some will act on it.

We already have invasive species spreading around the world with (mostly accidental) human help. Imagine invasive species with really big downsides. Look at the funguses accidentally transported to places where they have devastated banana cultivars and other species. Or consider the bacteria carried by an Asian bug that is wiping out Florida citrus. Picture what happens if it becomes easily to develop carrier insects or bacteria or funguses that can wipe out the most valuable crops in Western countries. Some terrorist groups would probably try it if they could.

We might some day live in a world of constant genetic engineering battles to cause and stop disease attacks on humans and species we rely upon.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2017 February 19 06:09 PM 

Tj Green said at February 22, 2017 4:01 AM:

DNA methylation is the start of the aging process, so it could be fixed with genetic engineering (CRISPR). Dogs will be the first recipients to receive these antiaging therapies, and assuming that most of these damaging mutations they carry are age related, it will be a one fix solution.

JP Straley said at June 8, 2017 6:55 AM:

Errr...the technology is very portable. Hmmm, baby, let's go on a cruise to nowhere, take ten days off and feel real good on our return!

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