Defusing the legal and ethical minefield of epigenetic applications in the military, defence and security context

Journal of Law and the Biosciences 10 (2):1-32 (2023)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Epigenetic research has brought several important technological achievements, including identifying epigenetic clocks and signatures, and developing epigenetic editing. The potential military applications of such technologies we discuss are stratifying soldiers’ health, exposure to trauma using epigenetic testing, information about biological clocks, confirming child soldiers’ minor status using epigenetic clocks, and inducing epigenetic modifications in soldiers. These uses could become a reality. This article presents a comprehensive literature review, and analysis by interdisciplinary experts of the scientific, legal, ethical, and societal issues surrounding epigenetics and the military. Notwithstanding the potential benefit from these applications, our findings indicate that the current lack of scientific validation for epigenetic technologies suggests a careful scientific review and the establishment of a robust governance framework before consideration for use in the military. In this article, we highlight general concerns about the application of epigenetic technologies in the military context, especially discrimination and data privacy issues if soldiers are used as research subjects. We also highlight the potential of epigenetic clocks to support child soldiers’ rights and ethical questions about using epigenetic engineering for soldiers’ enhancement and conclude with considerations for an ethical framework for epigenetic applications in the military, defense, and security contexts.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 91,998

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

The Just War Theory and the Ethical Governance of Research.Ineke Malsch - 2013 - Science and Engineering Ethics 19 (2):461-486.
Bridges between development and evolution.Eva Jablonka & Marion J. Lamb - 1998 - Biology and Philosophy 13 (1):119-124.


Added to PP

26 (#611,461)

6 months
26 (#112,387)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author Profiles

Karla Karoline Sonne Kalinka Alex
University of Heidelberg
Alexandre Erler
National Yang Ming University

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references