The United States: Future Contributions to Overpopulation

The Earth currently holds 7.53 billion humans. The maximum supporting capacity of the Earth is estimated to be 9-10 billion. According to the United Nations Population Division, the human population will hit 9 billion by 2050, and 10 billion by 2100 (Wolchover, 2011).

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As one of the most powerful, knowledgeable, and resourceful countries in the world, the United States is on track to provide medical advancements that will contribute to overpopulation. Advancements such as the development of positive eugenics and bioprinting of cells will improve overall life expectancy. The research and development of evolutionary technology may become a “patriotic duty” if the United States finds itself falling behind as other nations advance (Catalano, 2002). The result of these potential tensions will compare similarly to previous arms races in the history of the United States, such as the Nuclear Arms Race of 1946 and the Space Race from 1957-1975. Positive Eugenics Research regarding neo-eugenics has enabled modern practices using reproductive technologies. As more research has been conducted, the term neo-eugenics has separated and emerged into two classes: positive and negative eugenics.

Negative eugenics is commonplace today and take the form of prenatal screening, IVF, and amniocentesis. The purpose of negative eugenics is to eliminate the implantation of embryos that are predisposed to genetic conditions or diseases. Alternatively, positive eugenics gives parents the ability to select embryos based on cosmetic and behavioral traits. This procedure is enabled by CRISPR-Cas9, a genome-editing tool that allows the removal of a section of DNA with the replacement of a different sequence that portrays a more desirable trait. An American biochemist, Jennifer Doudna, is credited for being the leading figure in the development of the genome editing technology. Doudna was the first to propose that CRISPR/Cas9 could be used for programmable editing of genomes. The ethical considerations of selecting only desirable traits to create a somewhat “super baby”, has sparked controversial opinions. Parents have rights granted by the Constitution that allow them to reproduce and parent without government intrusion. However, as parents self-select their offspring using positive eugenics, new ethical considerations must be evaluated. Many scholars argue that issues regarding positive eugenics go beyond state coercion and have far more disadvantages than benefits. Yale emeritus historian Daniel Kevles, warns that a resurgence of eugenics will be known as the “racist socioscientific movement to breed superior humans” (Agar, 2006).

Predictions have provided statistics that show how positive eugenics will affect the overall population. In the book “Remaking Eden: Cloning and Beyond in a Brave New World”, Princeton geneticist Lee Silver predicts that by 2350 there will be an elite group known as “GenRich”, making up roughly 10% of the population. Contributing to the social inequity, the remaining population will be known as “Naturals” who will be forced to work as laborers (Silver, 2004). The predicted future of positive eugenics for the human race includes segregation of social classes. This could bring about another era where segregation emerges. Social repercussions are likely to arise with the development of positive eugenics, resulting in a division between wealthy and lower socioeconomic standing individuals. Economic divisions will possibly evolve into genetic divisions, creating a separation between enhanced and unenhanced individuals due to social distinctions. Science-Fiction film, Gattaca, “depicts a world in which only genetically-modified individuals can engage in the upper echelon of society” (Yosef, 2017). “Legacy Genetics”, concern expressed by academic David Correia of the University of New Mexico, in which “societal wealth gaps may translate into permanent genome disparities”. On a more positive economic standpoint, the further study of gene identification to make designer babies will consequently lower the prices of prenatal testing as a result of increased efficiency and comprehension (Sutter, 2007).

However, an economic gap would exist in which only the financially privileged could afford the technology, enhancing their economic status while the less fortunate struggle to compete at an increasing rate. 3D Bioprinting On average, 20 people die every day from not receiving an organ transplant. Every 10 minutes, another name is added to the national transplant waiting list (American Transplant Foundation, 2018). With new technology arising, there is hope that the never-ending transplant waiting list will be eliminated. Through the use of bioprinting technology, scientists and doctors will be able to print and possibly clone organs. Prior to 3D printing capabilities, medical researchers were limited to only reproduce cells in a laboratory due to the complexity of organ cell structures, complete organ systems were found to be much more difficult to produce. The development of biocompatible systems for 3D printing has shown promise for applications in tissue engineering and the viability of organ production. These printing technologies utilize a precise process that if effectively used, can reproduce vascular systems to make 3D printed organs applicable. The bioprinting process involves the harvesting of the patient’s own cells from biopsies or stem cells located in a small subsection of healthy tissue. The selected cells are then allowed to multiply in a petri dish.

The resulting mixture, a substance known as biological ink, is placed in a 3D printer. The 3D bioprinting process includes a precise layering of cells, biocompatible scaffolds, and allowing growth and maturation to eventually recapitulate a desired biological tissue, such as an organ. The printer is programmed to arrange different cell types and materials into a specific three-dimensional shape. After an organ is printed, doctors hope that it will integrate with existing tissues located in the body. Compared to the previously established tissue engineering methods, technologies utilized by 3D bioprinting systems allow for greater precision in the spatial relationship between the individual elements of the desired tissue. Research in regenerative medicine is currently being conducted to generate more complex and advanced organ systems using 3D bioprinting technology. Before printing production of organs is considered a viable treatment option, FDA approval is needed as the specifics regarding integration into the body are still being processed. As a leader in 3D bioprinting technology, the United States government has funded what is known as the “body on a chip project”, responsible for printing tissue samples that mimic the functions of major organs, including the heart, liver, and lungs. The technique is sophisticated and will benefit medical professionals’ attempts to replace failing organs in the 115,000 people on the organ transplant waiting list. The printing process could completely eliminate the organ transplant waiting list, increasing survival for more people, but consequently adding to the concern of overpopulation.

The Recommendation Overpopulation protection requires sacrifice in order to sustain living conditions. In order to prevent overpopulation, but not limit medical advancements, policies that ensure people are applying scientific discoveries ethically will be important. This solution relies on the second amendment to allow individuals to evoke their religious freedom in determining life and death decisions as they are related to medical scientific advancements. The limitation will be whether humans will hold themselves to a moral standard of respecting life and death decision-making for this solution to be effective. Another limitation will be the ability for some individuals to afford these medical advancements and others will not be able to afford them at all. This will create a potential divide among these groups and how they respond to the availability of medical advancements. Overpopulation will not become an issue if our Constitution helps people make moral and ethical decision making on their own and within their ability to pay for treatment using medical advancements

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