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Con Case

We negate the resolution that “Public health services should expand access to gene-editing
technologies.”

Definitions:

 Public Health: “preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through organized
efforts of society.” (World Health Organization) [1]
o Health: is defined as a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing.
 According to Publichealth.org, access is the extent to which a public health service is readily
available to those in need
 The term should is use to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness.

Observation: As we do not live in an ideal world where governmental resources are unlimited,
feasibility and timeframe must be considered in this debate. We should not and cannot
continuously invest into something over an indefinite timeframe where impacts are uncertain.

Framework: As the resolution specifies on expanding access, gene editing/therapy techniques


currently used in the public health sphere does not count towards expansion. Thus, the pro side
must prove that public health services further expanding access to gene editing technologies is
both feasible and fall in line with their goals of public health in order to win this debate.

Contention 1: Pollution and global climate change are more pressing issues.
Claim A: (Physical basis) They are more widespread and harmful.
Unlike the effects of gene-editing specifically targeting individuals, the threat of pollution
and global climate change is not solely limited to those afflicted with ailments - the entire human
population is at risk:

 Experts reported that outdoor air pollution is a global cause of premature death, killing about 4.2
million people in 2015 alone. [2]
Moreover, climate change is one of the root causes of global conflict that leads to food
shortages, threatens people’s livelihoods, and displaces entire populations. Experts conclude that
the point of no return is fast approaching, where transitions must be underway before 2035. If
not, the worst effects of climate change will begin to take effect, causing severe natural disasters
and tens of thousands of deaths.

 More than 1.3 billion people now live on deteriorating agricultural land and are at risk of water
shortages and depleted harvests. [3]
 The number of people affected by natural disasters doubled to 204 million from 2015 to 2016.
Impact: The impact of pollution and climate change are of a much larger magnitude and scope –
they one root causes of diseases gene-editing aims to solve. If left to its own accord, they will
continue to threaten public health.

Claim B: (Moral obligatory basis) Current generations are morally obligated to solve these
issues.

The difference between genetic deficiencies and these pressing issues is the fact that
pollution and climate change on Earth are induced by us. We, the ones who destroyed the
ecosystems and made the air polluted, have a moral obligation to restore things to the way that
they should be.

 MIT experts and Climate Action Tracker researchers found that dangerous levels of warming
would be avoided (0.8 degrees Celsius) if countries stuck to their pledges in the Paris agreement.
 2017 sees a temperature decrease because countries fulfilled their promises. (Climate Action
tracker) [4]
We actually possess concrete solutions to these pressing issues, but current direct
government funding is scarce.

Impact:

 Expanding access to gene-editing places will lead to a genetic research fascination that
overemphasizes improving individual biology and overshadows plans that can best improve
society by addressing root causes of complex issues - improving lives calls for the tackling of
climate change and pollution, rather than improvements of genes. [8]
 More effective investments trades off with expanding access: Because public finance must play a
critical role in supporting innovation in sustainable energy, and other climate-resilient
developments [7]; more public funds will be directed at addressing climate change without
expanding access.
 In the US, health care now absorbs about one dollar in every six the nation spends, and it is on
track to double by 2035, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Most countries’ public
health services are facing fiscal crisis.

Contention 2: Prioritization of Traditional Medicine Better Serves Public Health


Claim A: Expanding access cannot be morally justified.
We are not in an ideal world and no treatment can become functional without decades of
testing and research.
 In China, CRISPR experiments on human patients have already led to 15 deaths, seven of which
were in one trial. [11]
 CRISPR has a greater than 50% frequency of off-target activity at sites other than the intended
target of mutated gene. [10]
Since humans must be subjects of gene-editing tests to confirm the actual capabilities of
the treatment and errors are inevitable – gene editing poses unresolvable issues because there is
no morally acceptable way to deal with errors on human patients. Tests on embryos that lead to
birth defects will haunt the child for the rest of their life, but we cannot simply terminate their
lives.

Impact: Because expanding access to gene technology would spur more hype in the science
community in editing human genomes to cure diseases, public health services must not expand.

Claim B: Traditional and Natural Solutions


Traditional medication has been serving us as a proven valid treatment for a plethora of different
diseases and illnesses. Not only that, the Native Plant Conservation Campaign reports that of the
top 150 prescription drugs used in the U.S., 118 are based on natural sources. Not only that, these
treatments have also been able to increase the remission rate of leukemia by over 85% (these
drugs were isolated and developed in the 1990s, when technology wasn’t as developed as now).
Despite the massive benefits that these plants offer, only 1% of all tropical plants have been
screened or pharmaceutical applications. Even in this 1%, we have derived over 100 different
treatments to diseases. Even expanding this number by a mere 1% would likely double our
medical capabilities. However, this is yet another reason to pool our resources towards
environmental protection rather than gene editing. About 15,000 medicinal plant species are
threatened with worldwide extinction, with AT LEAST 1 major drug being lost every two years,
creating the fear that cures for major diseases such as cancer and HIV will be lost before being
discovered.

A2- Hunger and GMO

We have more than enough food already, the problem is distribution


(“A hungry world: Lots of food, in too few places,” CNBC, July 22, 2013,
https://www.cnbc.com/id/100893540)
"We have two or three times the amount of food right now that is needed to feed the number of
people in the world," said Joshua Muldavin, a geography professor at Sarah Lawrence College
who focuses on food and agricultural instruction. "A lot of people aren't analyzing the situation
correctly. We can deal with short-term food shortages after a disaster, but fixing long term
hunger gets ignored," he said. "We don't have food shortage problem," said Emelie Peine, a
professor of international politics and economy at the University of Puget Sound. "What we have
is a distribution problem and an income problem," Peine said. "People aren't getting the food, ...
and even if [they] did, they don't have enough money to buy it." If there is enough food, a major
problem causing scarcity is what we do with it, said Roger Johnson, president of the National
Farmers Union, an advocacy group for U.S. farmers. "Something in the area of up to half of all
that's produced is wasted," said Johnson, who runs his own farm in North Dakota. "In the
undeveloped world, the waste happens before the food gets to people, from lack of roads and
proper storage facilities, and the food rots," Johnson said. "In the developed world, it's the
staggering amount of food that's thrown out after it gets to our plates."

A2 Gene-editing for cancer

Only about 5 to 10 percent of all cancers develop from gene mutations passed down from one
generation to the next, according to the American Cancer Society. That means that for the other
90 to 95 percent of cancers… That’s why prevention and awareness have become vital tools in
the fight to end cancer.

Cards About Social Reform Tradeoff


Anna Zaret, JD @ University of California, Hastings College of the Law and Managing Editor
@ Competitive Healthcare dot org, 2016
(“Editing Embryos: Considering Restrictions on Genetically Engineering Humans,” HASTINGS
LAW JOURNAL, http://www.hastingslawjournal.org/wp-content/uploads/Zaret-67.6.pdf)

Additionally, fixating on the potential benefits of embryo editing, especially for enhancement
purposes, may put too much emphasis on improving individual biology and distract society from
addressing aggregate structural problems. Proponents of embryo editing do not necessarily
understand social intervention and genetic intervention to be mutually exclusive, but proponents
often mistakenly treat genetic solutions as more universally promising than social solutions.
Science is on a trajectory which overemphasizes behavioral studies at the individual level, rather
than focusing also on the broader levels of groups or populations.108 For example, behavioral
studies of aggression and sexuality mostly look at variation in distribution of individual
differences.109 This approach misses the chance to understand variations in distribution “as
effects of causal factors, such as physical environment or social structure, operating at the level
of populations.”110 Similarly, scientists have tended to overemphasize the promise of what
genetic research can explain or change about human behaviors, and because of this overemphasis,
the public treats genetic research as more promising than social-environmental approaches in
terms of their ability to improve human life.111 The public may certainly be fascinated with the
potential to improve human genetics by editing embryos, but this fascination potentially
overshadows important conversations about how to best improve society. Genes certainly play
an instrumental role in biological health outcomes, but more frequently, public discussions focus
on the potential for genetic technology to cure complex social problems. For example, social
factors like access to education or exposure to violence are key determinates of heath, but no
amount of genetic engineering can influence those social factors.112 Overemphasizing genetic
change also overemphasizes individual problems, and creating a better society becomes an issue
of addressing individual traits.113 The social conditions in which people live, which deeply
affect individual choices and dispositions, become deemphasized.114 Humans and societies are
certainly capable of manipulation, but social programs like education, rather than improvements
of genes, are critical to improving lives. This calls for developing effective institutions like
education, health care, public safety, and other types of public services.115 Achieving social
justice requires advocates to focus not only on individuals exhibiting certain traits, but also on
developing institutions that can help lead people toward a fulfilling life and positive contribution
to the community. Biotechnology can improve quality of life for some people, but genetic
solutions are not the simple fix to complex social problems. We cannot, as advocates of the
liberal use of edited embryos suggest, pull levers to implement change for other people or
societies; beliefs and social structures must also change. By perpetuating the belief that
perfecting the human genome will cure many ailments of society, discussions of editing embryos
also begin to sound remarkably similar to discussions raised in the eugenics movement.
Nathaniel Comfort, Professor at the Institute of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins
University, 2015

(“Can We Cure Genetic Diseases Without Slipping Into Eugenics?,” The Nation, July 16,
https://www.thenation.com/article/can-we-cure-genetic-diseases-without-slipping-into-eugenics/)

Sci-fi genetic fantasies, whether hand-waving or hand-wringing, divert our attention from other,
more important determinants of health. Studies by the World Health Organization, the federal
Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, and academic researchers leave no doubt that the biggest factors in determining
health and quality of life are overwhelmingly social. Genetics plays a role in disease, to be sure,
but decent, affordable housing; access to real food, education, and transportation; and reducing
exposure to crime and violence are far more important. In short, if we really wanted to engineer
better, happier, healthier humans, we would focus much more on nurture than on nature.