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Peter Mills

In 2019, the World Health Organization convened an Expert Advisory Committee on Developing Global Standards for Governance and Oversight of Human Genome Editing. On Monday it published its findings in three reports: a position paper (summarising the findings), a set of recommendations and a framework for governance. These documents represent a significant contribution to the literature around genome editing that has emerged since about 2015, which includes a number of major reports and a steady stream of statements and position papers emanating from learned societies, professional bodies, national ethics committees and ad hoc groups. [1] The WHO report is both the latest of the ‘big reports’ and the last in the pipeline. For now.

The scope of the ‘big reports’ on human genome editing differs: the WHO covers laboratory research, medical uses and reproductive uses, or ‘somatic’, ‘germline’ and ‘heritable’ genome editing. The reports also have different emphases. The Nuffield Council has, naturally, been concerned with ethical, social and political matters. There was an implied division of labour between the International Commission (which reported in 2020) and the WHO Committee... see more