Civil society group slams call as attempt to manipulate public opinion to eventually permit GM babies
A group of scientists from seven countries have called for a global moratorium on all clinical uses of human germline editing — that is, changing heritable DNA (in sperm, eggs or embryos) to make GM children. However, the scientists do not ask for a ban.
The scientists lay out their call in an article in Nature. The move comes in the wake of claims by biophysicist He Jiankui that he edited the genomes of human embryos to create at least two babies.
The scientists write, "By ‘global moratorium’, we do not mean a permanent ban. Rather, we call for the establishment of an international framework in which nations, while retaining the right to make their own decisions, voluntarily commit to not approve any use of clinical germline editing unless certain conditions are met."
Call for moratorium is part of the problem, not the solution
In GMWatch's view, the only ethically acceptable way forward is a complete ban on human germline genetic engineering.
The civil society group Stop Designer Babies agrees. In a press release, the group criticised the scientists' call for a moratorium, arguing that it is really part of a technocratic procedure for manipulating public opinion in order to eventually permit them. The group stated, "Although a moratorium is better than the current trend towards legalisation, scientists’ self-regulation, lacking legal teeth, would be flouted by those scientists determined to go ahead, as has already been shown."
Stop Designer Babies added, "Since there is no medical need for this technology, a permanent global legal ban is therefore the only proper solution, but the Nature article actually opposes such a ban. It even fails to call for a ban on genetic ‘enhancement’, only stating that this would not be acceptable ‘at this time’. It also advocates the extremely dangerous eugenic ‘solution’ of widespread preconception screening, and ignores the many public statements of opposition to such a new eugenics by disabled people."
Stop Designer Babies warns that scientists would face a social backlash similar to that over GM foods, if it continued to push for these medically entirely unnecessary technologies.
Biologist Dr David King, a member of the Stop Designer Babies group, said, “Do not be fooled by another group of scientists and ethicists claiming to be ‘more responsible’ than rogue scientist He Jiankui. All they are trying to do is to bring the approval of this new technology back within the normal technocratic process for engineering public acceptance. There is absolutely no medical need for creating GM babies. But human genetic engineering would be a Weapon of Mass Social Destruction, especially in an era of rising right-wing authoritarianism. Only a global treaty banning cloned and genetically modified babies can halt the threat of a new eugenics.”
Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society, also favours a permanent ban. She says germline editing is “not safe, it’s not needed and it’s way too dangerous from a social point of view.”