WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- The Nuffield Council on Bioethics in the UK says editing human embryos, sperm, or eggs could be ‘morally permissible.’
- The ethics committee has given a ‘go ahead’ to DNA alteration as long as it is in the child’s best interests.
- According to The Guardian, the creation of genetically modified babies is banned in the UK but a few experiments around the world have shown that DNA editing could, in principle, prevent children from inheriting serious diseases caused by faulty genes.
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics (NCB) says that the creation of genetically modified babies is “morally permissible” as long as the parents perceive it to be the child’s best chances in life. The NCB is an independent organization in the UK that studies and reports on ethical issues regarding biology and medicine.
Currently, laws in the UK prohibit the creation of genetically modified babies. The NCB report does not call for a change in UK law, but only recommends “research into the safety and effectiveness of the approach, its societal impact, and a widespread debate of its implications,” The Guardian reports.
Karen Yeung, chair of the NCB working group said, “It is our view that genome editing is not morally unacceptable in itself. There is no reason to rule it out in principle.”
Yeung is a professor of law, ethics and informatics at the University of Birmingham.
The idea of altering DNA in human embryos has been a controversial issue. British scientists discovered that Crispr-Cas9, the most popular device for genome modification, has led to more damage to DNA. That means gene editing could destroy healthy genes when it is intended only to fix faulty ones. The study was published on Monday in Nature Biotechnology.
George Church, a geneticist at Harvard University who is not associated with the NCB, said he agrees that gene editing “should not be expected to increase disadvantage, discrimination, or division in society.”
He added that altering “common gene variants in sperm and eggs could save roughly 5% of babies from painful diseases.”
Marcy Darnovsky at the Center for Genetics and Society in California, however, noted that the NCB report acknowledged that if gene modification was allowed, it could be used for enhancement and cosmetic purposes.
“They dispense with the usual pretense that this could – or, in their estimation, should – be prevented,” Darnovsky said.
“They acknowledge that this may worsen inequality and social division, but don’t believe that should stand in the way. In practical terms, they have thrown down a red carpet for unrestricted use of inheritable genetic engineering, and a gilded age in which some are treated as genetic ‘haves’ and the rest of us as ‘have-nots’.”
Source: The Guardian