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Transgenic pig at Naturalis Biodiversity Center.
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A new genetic-modification technology proven to be quicker and cheaper than past methods of altering DNA in plants and animals has been approved to modify human embryos for research in England. In theory, this could correct gene mutations that lead to disease and death, but the reality is that the gene-editing technique could catalyze a new eugenics, if the thin line is crossed from targeting disease to human enhancement.

Known as CRISPR, an acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, researchers using it have been able to genetically modify a whole host of plants and animals in record time.

The most audacious idea is to use the gene-editing technique to create designer babies with enhanced traits. Some want to forge ahead quickly, but I don’t think we are ready.

This month, the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, a regulatory body in England, gave a researcher there the green light to modify human embryos for research. Last week, the National Academy of Sciences held its second meeting on human genetic modification. After its first meeting in December, I...