China’s Genetic Experiments Are Pushing Ethical Limits

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When James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence at the time, appeared before Congress in early January 2016 for an annual briefing of threats to the United States, he didn’t lack for material. Just a few weeks earlier, North Korea had tested a nuclear device, and Russia had begun deploying cruise missiles that appeared to violate a crucial arms-control agreement. But to the surprise of many experts, Clapper devoted a good chunk of his time to describing a much more exotic threat: biomedical research. Specifically, Clapper warned, “Research in genome editing conducted by countries with different regulatory or ethical standards than those of Western countries probably increases the risk of the creation of potentially harmful biological agents or products.”

Clapper’s statement didn’t explicitly mention China—but it didn’t need to. As his testimony went on to make clear,…

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