Despite dramatic advances in combating poverty and diseases over the past two decades, “continued progress is not inevitable, . . . and a great deal of unnecessary suffering and inequity remains,” writes Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Co-Chair Bill Gates in a pre-released essay from the May/June Foreign Affairs. “By the end of this year, five million children under the age of five will have died. . . . Hundreds of millions of other children will continue to suffer needlessly from diseases and malnutrition that can cause lifelong cognitive and physical disabilities. And more than 750 million people . . . still live in extreme poverty.”
The essay is part of a package of pieces examining the global impact of the gene-editing revolution – including an interview with CRISPR co-discoverer Jennifer Doudna and an essay about the regulation gene-editing. Gates argues that, “Ultimately, eliminating the most persistent diseases and causes of poverty will require scientific discovery and technological innovations. That includes CRISPR and other technologies for targeted gene editing. Over the next decade, gene editing could help humanity overcome some of the biggest and most persistent challenges in global health and development.” The author outlines the transformative potential of gene editing to eliminate diseases such as malaria and to breed more productive livestock and crops.
“It’s important to recognize the costs and risks of failing to explore the use of new tools such as CRISPR for global health and development,” Gates concludes. “The benefits of emerging technologies should not be reserved only for people in developed countries. Nor should decisions about whether to take advantage of them. Used responsibly, gene editing holds the potential to save millions of lives and empower millions of people to lift themselves out of poverty. It would be a tragedy to pass up the opportunity.”
The essay is available now paywall free at ForeignAffairs.com, and the full-issue posts on April 17. We encourage journalists to share with their audiences.