Ethics body in United Kingdom concludes that GMO babies could be ‘morally permissible’

В Британии заявили о реальной допустимости менять ДНК человека

On Tuesday, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics (NCB), an independent United Kingdom -based organization that analyzes and reports on ethical issues in biology and medicine, released a report focused on the social and ethical issues surrounding human genome editing and reproduction. Now, the inquiry gives a tentative green light to such enterprises as long as several conditions are met.

The council's report recommends any interventions must be in the interests of the social, physical and psychological welfare of the future person, and "should not increase disadvantage, discrimination or division in society".

Genome editing and human reproduction opens up a list of social and ethical issues that arise in relation to the prospect of the process becoming available as a reproductive option for prospective parents, such as principals that it should be meant to secure and be consistent with the welfare of the future person; and should not increase disadvantage, discrimination or division in society. These are the overarching principles. It has to be clinically safe and the risk for both the individuals and society need to be properly calculated as well as monitored.

In other words, the report suggests that human genome editing for the objective of genetic improvement, and not only the avoidance of disease, may be morally acceptable, an affirmation that can not help raising the specter of eugenics and designer babies. We'll also need to publicly debate the use of the technology and consider its possible implications. Currently, the report is not asking for the law to be changed.

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Officials involved in the ethical review cautioned that measures must be put in place before such modifications can become legal and they called for additional research medically and socially.

"Whilst there is still uncertainty over the sorts of things genome editing might be able to achieve, or how widely its use might spread, we have concluded that the potential use of genome editing to influence the characteristics of future generations is not unacceptable in itself", said Karen Yeung, a professor of law, ethics and informatics at Britain's Birmingham University, who chaired the panel. "However, if the technology develops it has potential to become an alternative strategy available to parents for achieving a wider range of goals". Heritable genome editing interventions are made to egg, sperm, embryo cells, or their precursors, that edited DNA sequence would then be present in all cells of any future person grown from those cells, passed on from generation to generation.

Marcy Darnovsky at the Center for Genetics and Society in California said, however, that the report opens the door to gene editing for enhancement and cosmetic purposes, something generally considered ethically problematic. Research published this week in Nature Biotechnology showed how one of these techniques known as CRISPR can damage DNA unrelated to the gene editing.

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