The Center for Bioethics and Culture has released their annual list of winners and losers for the previous year. Most have to do with surrogacy and assisted suicide. All are good candidates, but I noticed one glaring omission.
2015 was a tipping-point year for the genetic altering human embryos and, consequently, the genetic future of humanity.
The losers in this category would be:
- the UK, which became the first in the world to offer controversial ‘three-parent’ fertility treatments.
- China, where scientists confirmed that they have been editing the genomes of several non-viable human embryos from IVF clinics using a new promising gene-editing technique called CRISPR.
These are major developments, heralded by many science/tech magazines as some of the greatest scientific “advancements” of the past year. And because of them 2016 could very well be the year of the first GM humans.
If there are any winners to be awarded here I would give it to Congress for passing a modest, but meaningful protection from human embryo genetic manipulation. According to my friend Dr. David Prentice, a provision originally placed in the Agricultural Appropriations bill in the House, and kept in the Omnibus funding bill that passed last month, effectively blocks genetic manipulation of human embryos for the time being to allow further discussion on the subject.
I hope this provision really is as effective as Dr. Prentice says it is. Since the UK approved three-parent IVF last spring, the FDA has been reconsidering some of their restrictions on genetic engineering.
Though the response from scientific community has been overwhelmingly positive about going forward with these techniques, a good portion of scientists have cautioned against three-parent IVF, and agree we should have a voluntary moratorium on the editing of DNA in human embryos. There are just too many unknown risks.
The long-term consequences and social implications of this science can’t be ignored.
See more: Human Beings Are Not Science Experiments