To Edit or Not to Edit?—Regulating CRISPR Transnationally

By: Ann Potter

PDF: To Edit or Not to Edit?

After Chinese scientist Dr. He Jiankui’s announcement that he had successfully edited the human genome using a new technology called CRISPR/Cas-9, Dr. He forced the world to address the ethical dilemmas introduced by gene-editing technologies. Born out of a historical tradition of human “improvement,” gene-editing technologies like CRISPR/Cas-9 modify human genes down to DNA molecules. CRISPR can prevent and cure genetic diseases that have previously had no cure, but problems arise when CRISPR’s use expands to enhancements or to modifications that would change the human genome permanently. Given CRISPR’s potential profound impact, this Note analyzes how international bodies like the United Nations and countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan have attempted to regulate gene-editing technologies such that beneficial, individual modifications can flourish and rash, permanent modifications are avoided. This Note recommends the creation of the International Gene-Editing Ethics Commission, which would promulgate publicly approved ethical standards for gene editing while also providing member countries with access to publication in scientific journals, funding, and an international database.