Op-Ed

Beings 2015 Photograph: Twimg

The first day of BEINGS2015, “A Gathering of Global Thought Leaders to Reach Consensus on the Direction of Biotechnology for the 21st Century”, in Atlanta, coincided with the announcement by the National Academy of Science and National Academy of Medicine of an initiative to look into “promising new treatments for disease,” given that “recent experiments to attempt to edit human genes also have raised important questions about the potential risks and ethical concerns of altering the human germline.”

It is the time of prizes and tussles over intellectual property and experiments on non-viable human embryos, and, calls for caution from CRISPR-CAS9 scientists (here and here and here). Also still in the air is the UK’s political vote, despite an EU consensus against germline genetic modification (was this the first step of ‘Brexit’?) to allow clinics to apply for permission to undertake IVF with mitochondrial DNA donation, a form of germ cell genetic modification that requires egg donation. These technologies are widely considered threshold technologies with unknown and irreversible consequences for individuals, humanity and the environment.

During...