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Regulation Discussions Needed

Stanford University's Hank Greely writes in an opinion piece at the Washington Post that the regulation of gene editing needs to be updated as different applications pose varying levels of risk.

Researchers are turning to gene editing to limit the spread of malaria, resurrect woolly mammoths, and fix a genetic disease in Dalmatians, Greely says, noting that someone somewhere could also be using it to transform a relatively benign disease into a weapon. "Editing Dalmatians in a kennel is more controllable than releasing millions of mosquitoes; modifying laboratory pigs to take out certain embedded viruses is safer than editing mousepox," Greely writes. "Our current 'system' does not come close to those goals."

Instead, Greely says that much of the discussion surrounding gene editing is guided by fears of its use to make "designer babies" and he notes that there are measures in place to prevent human germline editing. However, he says regulations for other gene editing uses are piecemeal, outdated, and spread between federal agencies.

Rather than asking about human germline editing, he says current discussions should focus on how gene editing of animals should be regulated and who determines what is and is not safe.

"These are serious and difficult questions," Greely writes. "We need to be discussing them, not designer babies."