In DepthBioethics

Moratorium for germline editing splits biologists

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  15 Mar 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6432, pp. 1130-1131
DOI: 10.1126/science.363.6432.1130

You are currently viewing the summary.

View Full Text

Log in to view the full text

Log in through your institution

Log in through your institution


A commentary published in Nature this week by 18 prominent scientists and bioethicists calls for a moratorium on human germline editing. Earlier committees and commissions that have debated the prospect of editing human germ lines—which means sperm, eggs, or embryos—have stated the technology wasn't yet safe or reliable enough to do this, but pointedly did not call for a moratorium. Some argued a moratorium indeed was antiscientific and could backfire, harming research into less controversial use of genome editing that modifies somatic cells that aren't inherited or conducts experiments with human embryos that aren't meant to be implanted. But this commentary hopes the call for a moratorium will lead nations to voluntarily pledge to ban human germline editing until the scientific community can work with civil society to establish a framework that evaluates any research proposals that could impact what a person inherits—and thus affect the entire species. An international coalition of scientific societies as well as an expert committee organized by the World Health Organization have plans to discuss just such a framework, and the authors of the commentary hope their arguments will help inform the debates.