Gene Editing: Scientists Call For Ban On 'Designer Babies'

By Tyler MacDonald Dec 01, 2015 04:43 PM EST
Designer Babies
The advent of CRISPR gene editing techniques has given scientists the ability to alter the human species to a degree that was never possible.

Shortly before the international meeting on genetic engineering techniques in Washington, the Centre for Genetics and Society (CGS) and the activist group Friends of the Earth issued a report calling for an immediate halt on technology that can edit stretches of DNA and create "designer babies," according to ABC News.

"Like so many powerful new technologies, gene editing holds potential for both great benefit and great harm," the groups wrote in an open letter. "The implementation of heritable human genetic modification — often referred to as the creation of 'genetically modified humans' or 'designer babies' — could irrevocably alter the nature of the human species and society."

The three-day Washington summit, which kicked off today, will examine the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technique that allows fast, flexible genetic manipulation and possesses the potential to alter the human species, according to the Washington Post.

"The overriding question is when, if ever, we will want to use gene editing to change human inheritance," said David Baltimore, the summit's chair, before bringing up the topic of "human enhancement" techniques that could be used for cosmetic reasons. "These are deep and disturbing questions that we hope will be illuminated by this meeting."

Despite the many potentially harmful uses of CRISPR, it can also be utilized in gene therapy to tweak DNA and help fight genetic diseases such as hemophilia, according to MIT Technology Review. Although these uses are still in the early stages, scientists believe that CRISPR will begin testing on humans in approximately two years.

The call for action comes shortly after the CEO of China's cloning factory, currently the largest in the world, made claims that they have the ability to clone humans, as previously reported by HNGN.

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