Transgenic Embryos: 3 European Ethics Councils Sign a Joint Statement

Although the final version of the bioethics law has yet to be voted in France, the Senate recently removed the article which bans the creation of transgenic embryos. The international pressure is growing; consequently, on March 3, 2020, ethics councils in 3 countries signed a joint statement on heritable human genome editing: the French “National Consultative Committee on Ethics or CCNE”), the English (“Nuffield Council on Bioethics”) and the German (“Deutscher Ethikrat”. On the same day in France the “CCNE” published its recommendations in “Opinion 133”.

The 3 Ethics Councils jointly call on governments and policy-makers around the world, to put ethical considerations at the core of any future deliberations and the development of global governance of heritable genome editing. They affirm that available methods are not yet deemed safe enough for clinical use on humans. They insist that no clinical applications should be undertaken without public approval, following a broad societal debate, and not until research has appropriately assessed and reduced the uncertainties of adverse effects induced on unborn children.

All three councils consider it is essential that any application should not increase disadvantage, discrimination or division in society. The German and French councils also emphasize the principles of non-malfeasance and beneficence.

Despite their sound warnings, these 3 Ethics Councils do not exclude the potential birth of genetically modified children. They admit that some clinical applications of heritable genome editing could “be morally permissible” in the future, and that the “human germline (human embryos and gametes) is not categorically inviolable “.

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