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Ban Is Back

The US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee has voted to keep a ban on genetically modifying human embryos for reproduction in place, NPR reports.

Language barring the Food and Drug Administration from considering gene-editing research involving human embryos was first included in a 2016 spending bill, but a subcommittee last month removed the stricture from a new draft bill. A Democratic aide told ScienceInsider then that the ban was removed because it was added to the 2016 bill without public debate.

As NPR now reports, the ban has been reinstated. Some lawmakers argued that the ban prevents researchers from pursuing potentially life-saving research into mitochondrial and other inherited genetic diseases, while others say such work is too risky and could lead to gene editing for reasons other than to prevent disease.

"I recognize the controversy surrounding the ethical and moral issues of genetically modifying human embryos," Representative Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), who proposed eliminating the ban, tells NPR. "There is certainly a case to be made for advancing lifesaving research. But there's also a case to be made for the possible misuse of this procedure and a robust discussion is absolutely needed. That was what I was trying to achieve."