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UK Bioethics Group Gives Cautious OK for Genetically Modifying Human Embryos

The UK's Nuffield Council on Bioethics says genetically modifying human embryos could be morally permissible if it is in the best interest of the future child, the Guardian reports.

"It is our view that genome editing is not morally unacceptable in itself," the University of Birmingham's Karen Yeung, who chaired the Nuffield working group tells the Guardian. "There is no reason to rule it out in principle."

In its report, the working group says genome editing should only be used to improve the welfare of the yet-to-be-born child and shouldn't lead to or exacerbate existing social divisions. It also recommends the UK government establish a separate body or commission to foster a broad societal debate on what should be allowed.

Newcastle University's Jackie Leach Scully, one of the report authors, tells the Guardian that heritable genome editing could soon offer parents a way to give their child the best chance by eliminating a genetic disease, but it could have the unintended consequence of marginalizing those with genetic conditions.

The Center for Genetics and Society's Marcy Darnovsky tells the Guardian that unfettering gene editing could lead to people who are deemed "genetic 'haves' and the rest of us as 'have-nots'."