CGTN America
CGTN America 9 Jan 2021

Full Frame: Genetic Engineering with Dr. Robert Klitzman


The mystery of life is now revealed in our genetic code, revolutionizing how we tackle disease, aging and reproduction. Genetic engineering has been crucial in developing vaccines, including for HPV, Ebola and, now, Covid-19. 

But these technologies are raising ethical concerns over just how much humans should be tinkering with their own nature. One area where these concerns have been raised is in assisted reproductive technology. In the United States alone, this market will be worth, by some estimates, more than $45 billion by 2026.  People can now choose egg donors and sperm donors on a host of qualities, from eye and hair color, to education and religion.

"This, of course, gets into the realm of eugenics," said Dr. Robert Klitzman, the director of the Bioethics Masters Program at Columbia University and author of Designing Babies. "The Nazis took it to horrific ends ... so this should be a haunting reminder of the dangers we can get into when we start playing God in these ways."

Already the ability to screen for diseases is exploring inequalities that could only deepen as genetic engineering advances.

"A problem is that we now already, for instance, are screening embryos for diseases like breast cancer. So if you're wealthy, you can and have breast cancer in your family, you could get rid of that gene from your kids and their kids. If you're poor, you can't do that. So in the future, a disease like breast cancer that now unfortunately affects both poor and the wealthy in the future will increasingly just affect the poor," Klitzman said.

Gene editing technologies, like CRISPR, allow for more precise DNA edits to alter a particular trait. However, it's impossible to tell if only that one trait was altered, or others too that will only be known later in the person's life.

The advancement of this technology "opens up a whole another world of questions we will increasingly face," Klitzman said.

The mystery of life is now revealed in our genetic code, revolutionizing how we tackle disease, aging and reproduction. Genetic engineering has been crucial in developing vaccines, including for HPV, Ebola and, now, Covid-19. 

Diseases will eventually be "edited out" of humans, said Jamie Metzl, technology futurist and author of Hacking Darwin.  "We had lots of diseases that our ancestors suffered from that we don't suffer from now."

Metzl sits on the World Health Organization's expert advisory committee on genome editing, which is developing global standards that currently don't exist.

"It's not just about the science. This is just about what it means to be a human," Metzl said.
For many countries, the Covid-19 pandemic will leave long-lasting scars that ended decades of anti-poverty work. 
Extreme poverty -- defined as living on $1.90 a day or less -- affected more than 9 percent of the global population in 2020. If the pandemic has not happened, the extreme poverty rate would have dropped to 7.9 percent in 2020, according to the World Bank. 

China had set a goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2020, and the country's leaders did not back down from the goal even in the face of the pandemic.  This took a commitment from officials from the national level down to the township level, said Quansheng Zhao, chair of the Asian Studies Research Council at American University and author of  Interpreting Chinese Foreign Policy. It also required programs that created a social safety net for the population's most vulnerable.
Globally, the challenges to getting people out of poverty and keeping them out of poverty are becoming "more dynamic and more complex," said Pedro Conceicao, director of the United Nations Human Development Report Office.

"The challenges may be very varied and the reasons why people are left behind may be fairly different, in part because sometimes it relates to people that have already moved above the poverty line and they are not thrown back into poverty as a result of shocks like disease, illness or be hit by a natural disaster."

 The report essentially measures the progress each country is making in improving the lives of its citizens by focusing on people rather than solely income and economic growth. China is the only one to have moved from the low human development category to the high human development category since the UNDP first began analyzing global trends in 1990. 

" if you have income and are not healthy or haven't been didn't have a chance to have an education, then there's only so much that income can do for you. So we need a more comprehensive approach. And that's what the human development approach tries to measure, as well as the multidimensional poverty,"  Conceicao said.
Drug production, trafficking and consumption affects every country in the world.
Despite 50 years of U.S.-led international drug control efforts, overall drug production, trafficking and consumption have remained consistently steady.
Even in cases where production in one country drops, production is simply pushed into another country - this phenomenon is known as the "balloon effect".
Full Frame talks with Steven Dudley; who's followed the drug trade in Central America for the last 20 years.

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