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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Gene-Editing Human Embryos Is Ethical

Bioethicists and scientists who say otherwise are wrong.

By Ronald Bailey
Originally published May 1, 2015

Here are two excerpts:

The Chinese scientists essentially ignored recent calls for a moratorium on editing human reproductive cells and embryos. The month before their paper appeared, Science recommended that such research be "strongly discourage[d]" while the "societal, environmental, and ethical implications of such activity are discussed among scientific and governmental organizations." Meanwhile, Nature had editorialized that "genome editing in human embryos using current technologies could have unpredictable effects on future generations. This makes it dangerous and ethically unacceptable....At this early stage, scientists should agree not to modify the DNA of human reproductive cells." Some 40 countries have preemptively banned germline genetic engineering. (The United States is not among them.)


In what terrible bioethical violations did the Chinese researchers engage? None. The embryos were grown to the eight-cell stage, and none of them could ever have developed into babies. No germline cells with any potential to develop into people were modified. Of the 71 embryos that survived the experiment, 54 were genetically tested. Of these, 28 embryos had the target gene "spliced." Only four contained all of the replacement genetic material, and even those were mosaics—that is, not every cell had been modified.

The entire article is here.