CRISPR is an abbreviation of Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. It’s a virus that targets certain DNA sequences effectively chopping large genes into shorter, more simply sequenced bits.
Or that’s what it was designed for.
With the addition of Cas9 (not to be confused with Ice 9, an arrangement of ice crystals that remain solid at normal temperatures and agent of the apocalypse in Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle) technology CRISPR can be used to easily and cheaply modify genomes.
“Easily” is somewhat of an exaggeration because without expert design most modifications either have no tangible effect, result in the elimination of the modification through natural repair processes, or kill the host in gruesome ways. Also, some traits are distributed across several genes and are thus hard to change.
No Pink Elephants for you!
However “cheap” is totally true. You can go on Amazon today and buy a deluxe kit for under $100 which, because it’s mostly Petri dishes and Pipettes, is still incredibly overpriced.
So any idiot can buy one and some of them are. Perhaps CRISPR has more in common with Ice 9 than I led you to believe. John Oliver certainly thinks it’s a twisted idea.