Viewpoint: Why we need a 3-year moratorium on gene-edited babies

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Chinese scientist He Jiankui speaks at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong. Image credit: AFP

Chinese researcher He [Jiankui] dropped the bomb with his claim that he produced twin CRISPR’d babies. He cited a 2017 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine consensus report as one reason he felt it was alright for him to proceed with his efforts to do this.

I question He’s interpretation of that report, but in my view the experts issuing various reports left the door too open to this kind of work.

He’s announcement was likely timed to coincide with last week’s Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong.

As the Hong Kong meeting wrapped up, the organizers released a statement that did not explicitly call for a moratorium on making gene-edited babies.

Unlike the meeting organizers, I favor a low-risk, temporary, three-year moratorium on implantation of gene-edited human embryos to make genetically modified babies. A moratorium won’t stop the most driven rogue, and one can reasonably ask how it would be enforced. … Three years is enough time for both the science and societal discussions to advance without being a burden.

Related article:  Viewpoint: Anti-GMO movement's romanticized notions of 'natural food' won't solve global nutrition challenges

The scientific community needs to take a firmer and clearer stance that making genetically modified babies is prohibited for the time being. A temporary moratorium specifically on implantation of gene-edited human embryos would achieve that with minimal risk of over-regulating research and no impact on in vitro research.

Read full, original post: We need a temporary moratorium on using gene editing to create babies

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