By Kaitlyn Schaeffer

Independent experts of UNESCO’s International Bioethics Committee released a report calling for a temporary moratorium on edits to the human genome that could be inherited by future generations.

A new genome editing technique called CRISPR-Cas9 has made it possible for scientists to manipulate DNA easily and efficiently. While these manipulations can treat and cure certain diseases, such as cystic fibrosis and some types of cancer, they can also be used toward more ethically murky ends, such as selecting certain traits for unborn children – a purpose that smacks of eugenics.

The report was issued after UNESCO met in Paris to discuss genetic modification. Rapid advances in these types of therapies bring with them a host of consequences. Many argue that “gene therapy could be a watershed in the history of medicine and genome editing is unquestionably one of the most promising undertakings of science for the sake of all humankind.” Yet, at the same time, the power to manipulate genes that could be passed on through the germline raises particular concerns about human dignity.

Until the people have engaged in a fuller public debate over the various concerns these issues raise, the IBC believes that such research should temporarily be halted.

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