The allure of the CRISPR gene-editing approach is that it is relatively easy to perform. But that also means, New Scientist notes, people can tinker with it from the comfort of their own homes, raising regulatory concerns.
For instance, it points out that a dog breeder in Mississippi has said that he wants to use the approach to eliminate a mutation in Dalmatians that makes them prone to kidney disease. The US Food and Drug Administration told him that he could experiment, but couldn't sell or give away modified dogs. The agency noted that if there was evidence that such modified animals posed minimal risk, they'd reconsider their stance, New Scientist adds.
It notes that the agency is trying to find a balance between an approach that could be a national security threat as well as be a key tool for innovation. "The risk can't be contained by restricting uses of CRISPR, just as nobody can stop people making bombs out of fertilizer," New Scientist says. "But the technical simplicity that makes CRISPR such an exciting technology also risks creating an unruly beast that the authorities must find a way to tame."