Scientists call for ban on human gene editing

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Section
Audio,
Publish Date
Thursday, 14 March 2019, 8:28a.m.
Photo / 123RF

A number of scientists around the world say we are not ready for designer babies.

They are calling for a global moratorium on all clinical uses of human germline editing, which includes changing heritable DNA in sperm, eggs or embryos.

It's in response to a Chinese scientist who claimed he had created the world's first genetically edited babies.

Last year, He Jiankui genetically modified human embryos to disable a gene essential for HIV infection. His work sparked an outcry among scientists, who say Jiankui violated international norms. 

Genomics Aotearoa director Peter Dearden told Mike Hosking there are enormous possibilities in gene editing and the issue has been forced by the behaviour of one bad scientist.

"The majority of scientists around the world believe what this scientist has done is irresponsible and unethical. What we do know is that this technology does work on humans, it was just done in a way that isn't acceptable."

Auckland University Senior Lecturer Hilary Sheppard says the ban will send a clear message that they put a lot of emphasis on doing ethical research.

"We are not asking for inhibition of any type of research, just not allowing it to get to implantation stage. There are technical, ethical and moral issues that need to be looked at."

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