Research in genetics is currently being revolutionised by a new tool known as CRISPR-Cas9, which permits precise, targeted modification of the genome in living cells. The use of this gene‑editing technology in human embryos in China and the UK attracted widespread attention and raised serious concerns. Of particular ethical significance is the fact that genetic modification of the germline not only influences the development of the human embryo, but the changes are also passed on to future generations. Therefore, these are interventions in evolution - the process of biological self-regulation.
The Commission discussed this topic at its meeting on the 3rd of June 2016 and prepared a brief assessment of the current situation (available in French, German and Italian). The Commission believes that these technological developments call for an in-depth, critical, open and transparent debate within society. There should also be a legal/normative discussion concerning the prohibition of germline modification. In addition, the Commission recommends to consider the question whether coherent and comprehensive legislation is required to regulate the use of human embryos.
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