UN could lead debate on gene editing

Friedrich-Alexander University, Erlangen, Germany.

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BrisSynBio, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.

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The task of mediating between advances in biotechnology and broader societal concerns should be entrusted to representative institutions such as the United Nations (see J. B. Hurlbut Nature 565, 135; 2019). If the discussion about human germline editing is going to have global societal relevance, scientists, ethicists and academies must stop thinking that they can debate these issues in a cosmopolitan haven of ideas.

Openness and transparency are laudable goals for science, but they cannot exist in a bubble. With populist parties doubting expertise on issues from climate change to vaccination, the scientific and policy communities need to recognize that the public’s knowledge of science and its attitude to biotechnological innovation cannot be separated from trust in scientific and political institutions. The social and political ground has to stabilize so that we can build a common platform for such debate and decision-making.

Nature 565, 567 (2019)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-00324-5

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