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Genomics changes the world as we know it. It elucidates total gene function and expression of an organism’s genome (DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid). Scientists adopt bacteria’s method of altering DNA when defending itself against invading viruses. This culminates in Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna winning the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. These women establish the powerful and practical CRISPR way of genome editing.

In 2018, He Jiankui at a Hong Kong scientific conference announces genetic modification of twin-girl embryos by instilling HIV resistance. Afterwards, he receives a three-year prison sentence for conducting “illegal medical practices” on twins born with this trait.

The first drumbeat of human embryo genetic modification undertakes elimination of hereditary diseases such as Huntington, sickle cell, hemophilia, Tay Sachs and muscular dystrophy, among others. The second beat pursues innate immunity for offspring to known communicable diseases. The third pledges endowment of our progeny with inherent healthy physiques and full cognition. And the beat goes on with improving food crops, controlling crop infestations, developing novel animal products and designing human genetic augmentations, to name a few.

Considering modified food crop seeds, Vandana Shiva asserts, “Genetic engineering has never been about saving the world; it’s about controlling the world.” Whereas Isaac Asimov envisions the human dimension by predicting, “The advance of genetic engineering makes it quite conceivable that we will begin to design our own evolutionary progress.” The paradigm shift in rewriting the code of life propels us into a brave new world with socioeconomic repercussions. Genomics recasts our society transcending the era of nuclear and digital information technologies.

Roger Combs

Ona

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