GMO babies: International condemnation?



Experts at the Hong Kong summit [1] have unanimously condemned the work of He Jiankui, who claims to have created genetically edited twin girls. In a press release published this morning, the experts called for "an independent enquiry to confirm this statement and establish whether the DNA changes claimed were actually carried out". They go on to say that, even if the genetic changes were actually made, the procedure was "irresponsible and did not conform to international standards". "Shortcomings include inadequate medical indication, a poorly designed study protocol, non-compliance with the ethical standards to protect the well-being of individuals taking part in research and a lack of transparency in developing, checking and implementing clinical procedures". The Hong Kong summit closed with a call for "better supervision of research" at international level.

 

The French National Academy of Medicine and the French Academy of Sciences have echoed this condemnation believing that, on this occasion, "conditions have not been met". Their press release states that this type of approach can never be ethically acceptable "when the purpose of the research can be achieved via other methods", as in the case of HIV prevention, and triggering "key questions in that [genetic editing] will be passed on to descendants and future generations".

 

A "message that sends shock waves", according to journalist and medical doctor Jean-Yves Nau since "it suggests that, all things being equal, a happy outcome for the individual could justify the unbelievable collective consequences of the means". More precisely, the press release states that "this amendment could be carried out countless times in situations where the end result could have been achieved via different methods" and that, "once these conditions are met, the flood gates will open". Furthermore, both academies insist on "emphasising the relevance for the human race of responsible research calling on techniques to modify DNA—even when conducted in embryos—and confirm their support". Jean-Yves Nau wonders about the significance of the term "responsible" in this particular context.

 

Beijing authorities are calling for the activities of all researchers involved in He Jiankui's work to be suspended. The Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology has announced that it is "strongly opposed" to these experiments.

 

See also:

China: birth of two genetically edited babies

Reactions and start of enquiry following birth announcement of two genetically edited babies

Genetically modified babies: researcher suspends tests

 


[1] Second international summit on human genome-editing bringing international experts together in Hong Kong


Sources: 

AFP (29/11/2018); Jean-Yves Nau (29/11/2018)