Calls for Course Correction in the Heritable Genome Editing Debate: Decentering the Summit, Spotlighting Social Justice
Events and initiatives highlight widespread opposition to altering the genes of future children and generations
“Genetic Justice from Start to Summit” symposium now available online
The Center for Genetics and Society’s virtual symposium “Genetic Justice from Start to Summit” was held this week in anticipation of the Third International Summit on Human Genome Editing. The CGS symposium, which drew hundreds of attendees from 18 countries, featured 12 speakers examining heritable genome editing from the perspectives of disability rights, reproductive rights and justice, racial justice, environmentalism, and human rights. The symposium sessions are now available online.
CGS Associate Director Katie Hasson, who will be attending the upcoming summit and related events, summarized the symposium’s message this way: “Heritable genome editing is not safe, fills no unmet medical need, and would worsen inequality and discrimination. We don’t see any place for heritable genome editing in the fair and inclusive future we aspire to build.”
At last year’s Royal Society / National Academies virtual conference, Hasson spoke about existing prohibitions against heritable genome editing, which are globally widespread. “More than 70 countries already have prohibitions against heritable genome editing. That’s an astounding level of global agreement,” she said, referencing a global policy survey she co-authored. “No small group of scientists, however elite, has the authority to ignore such clear societal signals and push ahead with this risky and controversial technology,” she said.
In another sign of growing engagement and opposition, an international declaration against legalization of heritable genetic modification has been launched by a new coalition of advocacy organizations including CGS.
Further, several events will take place in the UK and online in the coming days to air concerns about and opposition to heritable genome editing. Organized by a range of advocacy and academic groups (a list is available here), they each urge that deliberations and debate be opened to a greater range of voices and perspectives than has been heard to date.
“This unprecedented level of organizing in response to the Summit demonstrates a growing recognition that essential voices are missing,” Hasson said. “This is a challenge to the Summit organizers. They risk the legitimacy of their discussions by not honoring the commitment to 'broad societal consensus’ they made at their first meeting in 2015.”
For more information, please contact Katie Hasson (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Marcy Darnovsky (email@example.com) or call (510) 665-7760.
The Center for Genetics and Society is a non-profit public affairs and policy advocacy organization working to encourage responsible uses and effective societal governance of human genetic and reproductive biotechnologies.