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Representative Bill Foster. 
Image via Wikimedia

It is rare that prominent members of the scientific community come together to warn our leaders of technological breakthroughs that our legal system and society are not prepared for. As the last scientist with a Ph.D. remaining in Congress, I feel a responsibility to transmit those concerns to my colleagues and to the public.

The breakthrough in question relates to human genetic engineering. This has long been a theoretical possibility assumed to be decades away from practicality. In the last several years this has changed significantly due to recent breakthroughs that allow inexpensive and precise editing of chromosomal DNA. The technological potential has been amplified by the widespread adoption of in vitro fertilization, the rapid decline in the cost of genome sequencing, increasing use of Big Data to understand the relationship between genetic variations and behavior and the rapid spread of these technologies throughout the world.

It's time for leaders in government to take notice.

The ability to modify DNA has been around for decades, but until recently it was expensive and time consuming, and required a very high level...