Ethics body in United Kingdom concludes that GMO babies could be ‘morally permissible’

Man holds hand of a baby with bar code on it. Genetic cloning concept

In other words, the report suggests that human genome editing for the objective of genetic improvement, and not only the avoidance of disease, may be morally acceptable, an affirmation that can not help raising the specter of eugenics and designer babies.

It's a hugely controversial idea, but genetically edited "designer babies" could be on the horizon, after a science council concluded that DNA editing human embryos could be "morally permissible". It is now becoming possible to alter DNA in a human embryo, potentially correcting genetic diseases.

While not suggesting laws to be altered in its favor, the report calls for more research into the safety and effectiveness, its social impact and more discussions about the potential implications.

Experts from the UK's Nuffield Council on Bioethics said that while the law should not now be changed to allow human genome editing to correct genetic faults in offspring, future legislation permitting it should not be ruled out.

The scientists said they would "not rule out" uses such as ensuring children were tall and attractive.

Genetically modifying babies to influence the characteristics of future generations "could be ethically acceptable", the council ruled, if two principles are satisfied. The most popular tool used for genome editing, Crispr-Cas9, caused more damage to DNA than the British scientists previously believed.

The body did stress, however, that gene editing may only be possible with consideration of two overarching principles: that the procedure be carried out to "secure the welfare" of the individual involved, and only in circumstances were it can not be expected to trigger social division.

"It is our view that genome editing is not morally unacceptable in itself", said Karen Yeung, who headed the inquiry committee.

'Initially, this might involve preventing the inheritance of a specific genetic disorder.

In other words, DNA editing raises the chances of "designer babies" by rewriting the genetic code of embryos created through standard IVF.

While genome editing for reproductive purposes is "currently unlawful" in the United Kingdom, the authors state, "there is potential for genome editing to be used in a wider variety of more common circumstances, and for a wider range of purposes that may be unrelated to the avoidance of medical diseases or disorders".

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