Nouria Hernandez, geneticist and Chancellor of Lausanne University, believes that “the general public has not been adequately informed about the new options available with genetic tools”, and “has not yet taken stock of all the opportunities offered by genetic engineering”. CRISPR-Cas9, which facilitates the accurate handling of living organisms, raises questions that society should grasp as a matter of urgency: “Is the handling of living organisms actually desirable? How can this be managed to prevent spin-offs? “
What does the general public think of gene modifications in human gametes or embryos at a very early stage? This type of handling “paves the way for genetic modifications which are no longer confined to separate individuals but are extended to the human line per se”. As far as the geneticist is concerned, “a genetic modification is often considered acceptable if it significantly improves a person’s health. But as soon as this type of modification is passed on to the next generation, we are making decisions for people who haven’t been born yet! ” Furthermore, as far as these questions are concerned, “there is a discrepancy between the general public and scientists”.
What are the limitations to these handling procedures? “Removing a gene that causes a serious transmissible disease seems positive. But what happens if the genetic modification simply alleviates the symptoms?”. What if the modification exceeds the rigid legal framework ? “Should we be creating human beings who are less aggressive, with no tendency towards obesity or addictions?”
Le Temps, Pascaline Minet (8/03/2017)
Photo: Pixabay / DR