Will China be the first country to perfect genetic editing? 5 things to know

Jessica Kim Cohen - Print  | 

Although many in the United States believe altering genes to make future children more intelligent or athletic is unethical, there's reason to believe these principles vary abroad, according to Quartz. In fact, some researchers have posited that China will be at the forefront of genetic modification.

Here are five reasons it's not unlikely:

1. In many countries, like the United States, citizens have shown opposition to genetic editing; for example, a recent study that investigated public opinion of selecting embryos based on traits like appearance or intelligence found strong opposition in countries including the United States, United Kingdom and Germany.

2. This opposition identifies safety as a concern, since modifying DNA carries risks; another, more philosophical, concern revolves around the ethics of scientists "playing God." On a social level, critics are also concerned that genetic editing will exacerbate inequality, by allowing some citizens to create a generation of "enhanced individuals," according to Quartz.

3. However, in countries like China and India, there is a more positive attitude toward genetic enhancement. Researchers are not sure where these national differences in stance arise from.

4. A recent study found that countries vary in legislation related to regulating germline genetic modification. In the United States, there is little legal restriction on genetic editing in practice; however, there is a ban on federal funding for this type of research.

5. On the other hand, the Chinese government has provided funding to scientists studying genetic editing, and even funded the study that used the CRISPR-cas9 tool to edit genes of human embryos in 2015 — which allowed China to be the first country use the technology, according to Quartz.

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