Light bulb or bomb?


augias bomba atomicaCRISPR ’s debut in the cultural programming of the Italian television occurred at “Quante storie”, a 30 minutes book show aired by the public broadcasting company (Rai 3, 23 March 2017). It went with a genuine interest into understanding the science of genome editing and many questions from the classic repertoire concerning biotechnology, from worries about economic interests at play (but if we want drugs, the pharma industry must be there) to the risk of using the new technique for eugenics purposes (the long shadow of Nazism still makes us think blond children would be favored).

The extract from the Sci-Fi movie Splice, opening the show, presented two researchers torn about whether to follow their drive to discover or to obey moral rules. Scenography revived the meme of the Creation of Adam by Michelangelo and the dual nature of science as blessing and evil (the light bulb vs the atomic bomb). The debate focused on potential applications to the human genome. The hope for revamping gene therapies was clear, as well as the interest for placing Italy on the geographical map of the upcoming biotech revolution. But there was also a mix of curiosity and anxiety for the perspective of edited children, that I described as a possibility far in the future and the presenter judged unavoidable.  The potential of genome editing for agriculture was not discussed. This is how the CRISPR storytelling has begun on the Italian tv.

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