Time for a moratorium?
A temporary hiatus should be placed on all clinical uses of human germline editing, a group of international scientists say.
In a comment published in Nature, the group of scientists and ethicists from seven countries - including New Zealand - suggested a moratorium of five years would allow for moral, ethical, scientific and medical issues to be ironed out.
Following that, the researchers say there should be an international governance framework to guide any future use.
The call follows the actions of Chinese scientist He Jiankui, who reportedly used gene editing to produce two babies last year - a move which lead to widespread condemnation.
University of Otago's Professor Jing-Bao Nie, who was a co-author on the comment piece, said: "In many ways, He's human experimentation constitutes one of the fruits of his personal ambition, nourished and directly supported by China's authoritarian pursuit for a nation strong in science and technology."
Genomics Aoateroa Director Professor Peter Dearden supported the call, but added a moratorium may not be sufficient to stop scientists like Dr He.
"I think the question we really need to ask is, 'How did we get in the position where a scientist believes that they can just ignore all the ethical and legal implications of their work and go ahead and do it?'"
University of Auckland senior lecturer Hilary Sheppard told Newstalk ZB the move would send a clear message about the need for ethical research.
"We are not asking for inhibition of any type of research, just not allowing it to get to implantation stage."
The proposed moratorium would not hamper research or editing non-germline cells, the Nature piece says.
Global standards for governance and oversight of human genome editing are set to be discussed next week at the World Health Organization in Geneva, when a new expert advisory committee meets for the first time.
The SMC gathered expert comment on the suggested moratorium.