Advances in genome editing pose a threat to national security and may be used to create biological weapons, Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan said at the Council on Foreign Relations on Wednesday.

“Nowhere are the stakes higher for our national security than in the field of biotechnology,” Brennan stated. “Recent advances in genome editing that offer great potential for breakthroughs in public health are also a cause for concern because the same methods can be used to create genetically engineered biological warfare agents.”

In April, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Health Affairs Acting Director Aaron Firoved testified in Congress that synthetic biology and gene editing offer terrorist organizations potential to modify organisms for malicious purposes such as manmade pathogens that can rapidly cause disease outbreaks.

Moreover, subnational terrorist entities such as Daesh “would have few compunctions in wielding such a weapon,” Brennan noted.

Brennan called on the international community to create national and global strategies to counter such threats, along with the consensus of laws, standards and authorities that needed to counter the threat.


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