A new 'genome editing' technique, called CRISPR-Cas9, makes it possible for scientists to insert, remove and correct DNA, providing hope that certain illnesses, such as sickle cell diseases, cystic fibrosis and some cancers could be treated or even cured. However, a UNESCO panel of scientists, philosophers, lawyers and government ministers called for a halt to genetic editing of the human germline. The experts warned of the danger of tampering with hereditary traits that could lead to eugenics.
UNESCO's International Bioethics Committee (IBC) said, "Gene therapy could be a watershed in the history of medicine and genome editing is unquestionably one of the most promising undertakings of science for the sake of all humankind. But the genetic editing required particular precautions and raises serious concerns, especially if the editing of the human genome should be applied to the germline and therefore introduce hereditary modifications, which could be transmitted to future generations."
AdvertisementThe IBC panel said, "Interventions on the human genome should be admitted only for preventive, diagnostic or therapeutic reasons and without enacting modifications for descendants. Unless such restrictions were applied, it could jeopardize the inherent and therefore equal dignity of all human beings and renew eugenics."