ASU researcher calls for citizen participation in discussions on the future of human genetic engineering


Sandra Leander

The advent of new technology that enables genetic engineering – modifications to the human genome that can be passed on to future generations – is raising serious concern with biologists and ethicists across the country and around the world.

In an April 7 article in The Guardian, written by Arizona State University School of Life Sciences assistant professor Benjamin Hurlbut, together with colleagues Sheila Jasanoff and Krishanu Saha, Hurlbut is calling for additional actions pertaining to a technology called CRISPR/Cas9, which allows scientists to “recode” DNA sequences.

Current recommendations regarding this technology include: a hold on the clinical application of the technology; the creation of expert forums; transparent research; and a global group of experts to make recommendations for policy.

Hurlbut and his colleagues say those recommendations don't go far enough. They write that the "power to modify the human genome demands serious engagement not only from scientists and ethicists but from all citizens." They go on to call for public participation in the process that will shape our biological future. They also say that governments have the obligation to make sure citizens are included in deliberations.