Is it time to regulate biohacking? California thinks so

" California wants to make it clear that tinkering with your own genes is a “don’t try this at home” sort of thing.

The state is making it illegal to sell a do-it-yourself genetic engineering kit unless it comes with a clear warning stating that “the kit is not for self-administration.” This is a notable escalation of an effort to regulate biohacking, a movement that’s gotten people interested in hacking their genomes — although it bears noting that right now, nobody appears to actually be selling the sort of kit California prohibits.

The bill containing the prohibition was authored by Republican state Sen. Ling Ling Chang and signed by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom on July 30. In January, it’ll become law. Chang says it’s the first US law to explicitly address the gene-editing technology CRISPR.

As millionaire Serge Faguet, who plans to use biohacking techniques to live forever, put it: “People here [in Silicon Valley] have a technical mindset, so they think of everything as an engineering problem. A lot of people who are not of a technical mindset assume that, ‘Hey, people have always been dying,’ but I think there’s going to be a greater level of awareness [of biohacking] once results start to happen.”

One of the most notorious biohackers, Josiah Zayner, lives in California, where he’s currently under investigation after being accused of practicing medicine without a license. He runs a company called the Odin out of his garage in Oakland, selling biohacking supplies ranging from $20 DNA to a $1,849 DIY genetic engineering kit. In 2017, he injected himself with CRISPR DNA at a biotech conference, live-streaming the stunt. That same year, he started selling a CRISPR kit to target a human gene, the removal of which could theoretically make muscles bigger."

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