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Potential, and Potential for Misuse

Gene editing has been added to a list of threats that could be used as weapons of mass destruction, Technology Review reports.

The list, compiled by US intelligence agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and others also includes more conventional threats, such as North Korea's possible nuclear weapons, chemical weapons in Syria, and new Russian missiles, Tech Review says.

It adds that many in the intelligence community were surprised by the addition of gene editing to the list, but James Clapper, US director of national intelligence, notes that its ease of use and potential as a dual-use technology are the main causes of concern.

"Biotechnology, more than any other domain, has great potential for human good, but also has the possibility to be misused," Daniel Gerstein, a senior policy analyst at RAND and a former under secretary at the Department of Homeland Defense, tells Tech Review. "We are worried about people developing some sort of pathogen with robust capabilities, but we are also concerned about the chance of misutilization. We could have an accident occur with gene editing that is catastrophic, since the genome is the very essence of life."