Ethical dimensions of genome editing: opinions and debates across fields and countries

September 3, 2020 4:15 - 5:45

Location: Virtual Room 1


With the rapid dissemination of gene editing across countries and scientific fields since the 2012 publication of CRISPR/Cas9 technology societal and ethical debates have developed. This technology and other new ones are more precise, easier to implement and cheaper than previous ones. As they may be applied to many fields and species (human cells, micro-organisms, animals, plants), several applications re-question established frameworks or regulations: human genome modification in a way transmissible to future generations, blurred frontiers between therapy and enhancement, humanisation of animal models, eradication of species that are vectors of diseases through gene drive mechanisms, qualification of organisms with an edited genome as GMO or not. It is thus important to discuss how to regulate the applications of genome editing in humans but also in plants, in relation with the use of GMOs, in animals regarding animal welfare and protection of the environment. A number of bodies, both scientific and ethics ones have issued positions on such aspects at national, European or international levels. Some events fostered debates, such as in 11/ 2018 the revelation that a Chinese researcher did modify at embryo level, the genome of twin girls for a gene involved in HIV cell penetration; the twins were subsequently born with an edited genome. The European group on ethics of science and new technologies has issued a statement on gene editing in 2016 and is currently working on its ethical and regulatory dimensions in different contexts and species. The Opinion is expected for the end of 2019, after a public round table.   Such statements and opinions get different echoes among general and scientific media, policy makers, the public and different communities. Why that? Through an analysis of the content and impact of various ethics declarations the panel will discuss how gene editing is playing a specific role in reshaping the science/society dialogue."

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