Scientists and ethicists have called for a global moratorium on all clinical uses of human germline editing.
Writing in Nature, 18 signatories from seven countries say they are not seeking a permanent ban on editing heritable DNA 'to make genetically modified children', but they want the establishment of an international framework in which nations voluntarily commit not to approve any use of clinical germline editing unless certain conditions are met.
They say there should be a fixed period during which no clinical uses of germline editing are allowed. “As well as allowing for discussions about the technical, scientific, medical, societal, ethical and moral issues that must be considered before germline editing is permitted, this period would provide time to establish an international framework,” they say.
The authors suggest that after this period, nations could choose to 'follow separate paths'.
The call to action comes just months after biophysicist He Jiankui reported that he had successfully edited the embryos of two infants born in China to prevent them from contracting HIV.
The World Health Organization has since established an expert committee to develop global standards for governance and oversight of human genome editing.