Op-Ed

Public debate

As the debate about heritable genome editing unfolds, divergent perspectives are coming more clearly into view. Those who see it as offering little or no benefit while posing unacceptable societal risks support either the currently prevailing policies that ban it outright, or a moratorium that leaves the option of prohibition on the table. Enthusiasts, in contrast, speak of a “responsible path forward.” They dismiss the need for anything called a moratorium, and backpedal on the commitment to broad societal consensus made at the first International Summit on Human Gene Editing, in 2015.

There is one point of agreement: nearly everyone says they favor public engagement in the decision. But as suggested by the contributions to the Spring 2019 edition of Issues, there are important differences over just what kind of public engagement and deliberative process each has in mind.

The Center for Genetics and Society, a public interest and social justice organization, has long pressed the case for prohibiting human germline modification. We are confident that a meaningful deliberative process will conclude that this use of powerful genetic tools has...