Op-Ed

A child rests their head on their hand and gazes out the window.

An international summit on human gene editing drew hundreds of people to Washington DC for three days this week, with many more joining online. The meeting, which wrapped up on Thursday, was convened by the scientific academies of the United States, the United Kingdom, and China. Its central issue: whether or not powerful new molecular engineering techniques should be used to create genetically modified children.

The summit was not designed to produce consensus among the participants, a mix of scientists, academics, ethicists and others, but its organizing committee released a statement at the end of the deliberations. Perhaps unsurprisingly, its conclusion was inconclusive.

The statement asserts that germline gene editing for human reproduction — that is, genetically altering sperm, eggs, or embryos and initiating a pregnancy with them — has not been shown to be safe or effective, and that for now “it would be irresponsible to proceed.” Nor should any such effort be made, it says, until “there is broad societal consensus about the appropriateness of the proposed application.”

But the statement explicitly leaves the door unlocked and open:...