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Differing Perspectives

Since gene-edited organisms like mosquitos could conceivably cross borders between one country at ease with the technology to one more suspicious of it, Gizmodo asks whether there need to be international regulations for genetic engineering.

Gizmodo's Kristen Brown notes, though, that "[i]t's hard to imagine what such a framework might even look like" as the attitudes of different countries toward genetic engineering vary. For instance, genetically modified crops considered perfectly safe in the US, but are banned in France, Germany, and Zimbabwe, among other nations.

"When countries want different things," Stanford University's Hank Greely tells her, "international bodies typically end up being ineffective, often with mandates sufficiently vague that everyone could agree to them but that no one will be particularly bound by them."

Brown also adds that some countries are better poised to deal with the regulatory issues gene-edited organisms bring up. For instance, Australia and Brazil have agencies dedicated to genetic engineering and the UK has an independent body that oversees human embryo research and IVF treatment.

"All countries need to think hard about a good regulatory agency to assess all kinds of modified life forms for their risks and balance those against their benefits before deciding whether to allow their introduction," Greely adds.