A group of European scientists has founded an international association to discuss and provide guidance on the ethical use of genome editing, a technique with the potential to transform everything from food production and human health to science itself. Organizers launched the new Association for Responsible Research and Innovation in Genome Editing (ARRIGE) at a kick-off meeting in Paris this past Friday.
The high hopes and fears around gene editing—which has the potential to lead to new crops and the elimination of diseases, but also to “designer babies” or insects running amok—have been the topic of dozens of meetings and reports, including a high-profile “summit” in Washington, D.C., in 2015. National science academies and councils, the Council of Europe, and several professional societies have weighed in.
But some researchers worry that the debate isn’t broad enough, or lacks the kind of dialogue needed to reach a societal consensus on the introduction of such a pathbreaking new technology. At the Washington, D.C., summit, for instance, “discussion split into two camps: scientific experts explored technical issues, whereas scholars who study science and society addressed questions about the possible disruption to social norms,” Sheila Jasanoff of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and Benjamin Hurlbut of Arizona State University in Tempe wrote last week in a commentary in Nature. “The two camps did not inform each other.”