Genome editing open call for evidence - updated response

This submission is a supplementary update to our previous response from January 2016, which still stands. In this response we update some of the general points we originally made and also add some more detailed answers in response to the questions raised by this latest call for evidence.

Many of the same endpoints potentially possible using germline editing can be reached using currently available techniques that do not have the risks and uncertainties that are associated with germline editing, for example, pre-implantation diagnosis. Given the existence of these technologies, it is challenging to justify the use of germline editing, particularly in the context of human reproduction when the benefits and harms are so uncertain. Therefore it might be premature to try to answer these questions definitively, however
they can be revisited as evidence accumulates.

Variations on these technologies have been used for decades if not centuries. We are concerned that limiting the focus of this enquiry to germline impacts in humans is unduly narrow and results in a failure to take account of the wider innovative and regulatory context within which reproductive decisions are situated. It could also result in less attention being paid to applications of gene-editing in plants and animals which cumulatively might have profound global impacts although individual applications may pose fewer ethical
challenges.

We also consider if the community is asking the right questions. The use of genome editing in therapeutic clinical applications is happening now, with more clinical trials in the pipeline. We think that more attention should be paid to the implications of implementing these technologies into clinical use, including how existing authorisations can be scaled up.