The Light Side of Genetic Engineering

Erin Wilson
OneZero
Published in
6 min readSep 27, 2019

--

Illustration: Carissa Knipe and Erin Wilson

PPerhaps you’ve heard tales from the Dark Side of genetic engineering. Let me guess: evil scientists tinkering with genetics for nefarious purposes, mutant slime escaping the lab, maybe even a zombie outbreak or two. Genetic engineering has certainly garnered a risky reputation. And there indeed exist real scenarios where it has gone awry: The string of lawsuits following agricultural giant Monsanto has made headlines over the years, while the scandal surrounding the genetically edited babies born in China last November is still quite fresh.

But that isn’t the whole story.

Like any powerful Force, there are those who would wield it with dark intent, but there are others out there who strive to develop the power for good. Though hacking organisms and rearranging genomes may sound scary, there is definitely a Light Side to this narrative (a balance, if you will). From medicines to biofuels and everything in between, there is incredible potential for cleverly redesigned biology to help us take on some of our world’s most pressing challenges in sustainability.

A need for sustainably sourced materials

By and large, humans struggle to maintain a sustainable relationship with our planet. We all need stuff, and stuff takes resources. If we run out of resources in one environment, we…

--

--

Erin Wilson
OneZero

PhD student at the University of Washington training to dual-wield the powers of Computation and Biology for sustainability. Find me at erinhwilson.com