Viewpoint: We need ‘public buy-in’ before moving forward on human gene editing

5-16-2019 yalenews editing genomes msh
Image: Michael S. Helfenbein

In response to [China’s controversial CRISPR babies], the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), the Chinese Academies of Science, and the Royal Society of the United Kingdom (henceforth the “Academies”) established a commission “to develop a framework for considering technical, scientific, medical, regulatory, and ethical requirements for germline genome editing… . Many leading genome-editing researchers reacted to the idea of a regulatory commission as the only imaginable next step. We offer a different view.

An international regulatory commission offers only one approach to governing genome editing—one that is both premature and incomplete.

Science, in the words of the philosopher Stephen Toulmin some 45 years ago, cannot function as its own “ecclesiastical court.” Scientists should not arrogate to themselves the exclusive authority to chart the path forward. If they truly value a “broad societal consensus,” they should, at a minimum, agree to a moratorium on research on GGE, while societies and their representatives take up the question of what is at stake and where we should, or should not, go.

Related article:  CRISPR gene edited soybeans suited for hotter climates offer 'enormous' crop yield boost

But a moratorium is at best only a starting point for deliberation. Long-term democratic governance of human GGE requires wide public buy-in into asking fundamental questions about human life, its value, its integrity, and its meaning.

Read full, original post: Democratic Governance of Human Germline Genome Editing

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