Yesterday in an article in Nature, a group of scientists and ethicists from seven countries called for a global moratorium on all clinical uses of human germline editing.

Last year, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics published a report on the social and ethical issues raised by the use of genome editing technologies in human reproduction. Responding to the paper, Hugh Whittall, Director of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, said:

"This paper is an important intervention in the developing international debate about the governance of heritable genome editing. This debate continues to unfold but there are substantial issues that remain unresolved and unaddressed. Our 2018 report, Genome editing and human reproduction: social and ethical issues, provides a key reference point but the debate now needs to be followed through into the formulation of policy and practical governance.

We welcome the paper’s call for a period of international discussion before any move towards national authorisation, a clear recommendation of our report. We strongly support the conclusion that no further attempts at clinical use of genome editing should be made before there has been broad societal debate about its acceptability and before research has reduced the considerable uncertainty about the risks of clinical use to an acceptable level. These things need to go together, however: we don’t yet know whether genome editing will prove safe enough for clinical use, or for what indications it might be appropriate, but we shouldn’t wait until it is ready to go before we consider whether we should do it at all."