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Product title :

Genome editing as a national security threat

Author(s) : K. Esvelt & P.D. Millett

Summary :

Testimony from the intelligence community in the United States connecting genome editing with national security threats was a noted departure from past assessments of the implications of modern enabling biotechnologies. Rarely are individual biotechnologies included on lists of potential security threats. When they are, a broad range of advances are usually considered collectively – in terms of both risks and benefits. Given the classified nature of the rationale as to why gene editing tools were singled out, we are unlikely to fully understand for several decades what prompted this statement. This paper considers three ways in which these tools might impact national security: i) enabling the development of advanced biological weapons; ii) facilitating the development of new bioweapons based on ecological applications of genome editing, and iii) enhancing future generations of people in ways which could have an indirect impact on security, for example by improving a nation’s cognitive ability and/or the physical endurance of its soldiers. Their implications are different and so are the possible policy and regulatory responses.


Biorisk – Biosecurity – Biotechnology – Gene editing – Genome editing – Security.

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