Though altering the DNA of a child before birth is “not morally unacceptable in itself”, any such decision should be guided by the child’s future welfare and welfare of the society, a British bioethics body has said in a report after conducting a 20-month independent inquiry.
The report was published by the Nuffield Council of Bioethics. Use of such techniques for reproduction is prohibited by law in the United Kingdom. The council has not recommended changing the law yet, and has only called for more research into the safety and effectiveness of genome editing, its impact on society, and a widespread debate on its implications, The Guardian reported.
“It is our view that genome editing is not morally unacceptable in itself,” said Karen Yeung, who headed the inquiry committee. “There is no reason to rule it out in principle.”
Yeung acknowledged to the BBC that the implications of genome editing for society are “extensive, profound and long-term”. The council said such processes “should not increase disadvantage, discrimination or division in society”. If the law were to ever change, genome editing should be strictly regulated, it added.
Experiments around the world have shown that editing DNA in embryos could, in principle, prevent children from inheriting serious genetic diseases, according to The Guardian.
The council suggested that an independent body or commission be set up in the United Kingdom to lead the debate on the topic and contribute to the development of national and international guidelines.