An open letter & report: Calling for prohibitions on human germline engineering

Press Statement
Cover of the report, featuring an African American baby sitting and turned slightly to the side. A DNA molecule appears in the background.

Berkeley, CA – In anticipation of the International Summit on Human Gene Editing, which begins tomorrow in Washington DC, the Center for Genetics and Society today released two documents about human germline modification: an open letter, and a report written in collaboration with Friends of the Earth.

Open Letter on Human Germline Gene Editing

About 150 invited scholars, health practitioners, scientists, public interest advocates, and others have signed a CGS-organized open letter calling for strengthened prohibitions against heritable human genetic modification.

“There is no justification for, and many arguments against, human germline modification for reproductive purposes,” the letter reads in part. In reference to the upcoming summit, the signatories argue, “We strongly believe that the National Academies’ initiative and international meeting should be considered a very early step of a broadly inclusive program of public discussion.”

“We appreciate the invitation to speak at the summit,” said Marcy Darnovsky, PhD, Executive Director of the Center for Genetics and Society, who will be on a panel on the afternoon of Tuesday, December 1. "We hope the meeting is a prelude to a much broader conversation with public voices, including advocates of environmental protection, disability rights, racial justice, reproductive rights and justice, labor, children’s welfare, and others”

“Engineering the genes we pass on to our children and future generations would be highly risky, medically unnecessary, and socially fraught,” Darnovsky continued. “There is no good reason to risk a future of genetics haves and have-nots, a world with new forms of inequality, discrimination and conflict.”

Extreme Genetic Engineering and the Human Future: Reclaiming Emerging Biotechnologies for the Common Good

A new report, a collaborative project of the Center for Genetics and Society and Friends of the Earth, puts human gene editing into the context of broader developments in synthetic biology. It examines the systemic and commercial incentives to rush newly discovered biotechnologies to market, regardless of their social utility and ahead of appropriate, transparent assessment and oversight.

“Genetic modification of children was recently the stuff of science fiction,” said lead author Pete Shanks, consulting researcher with the Center for Genetics and Society and author of Human Genetic Engineering: A Guide for Activists, Skeptics, and the Very Perplexed. “But now, with new technology, the fantasy could become reality. Once the process begins, there will be no going back. This is a line we must not cross.”



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.

Marcy Darnovsky
510-625-0819, ext 305

Pete Shanks