PACE says “no” to germ-line genome editing in human beings

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PACE says “no” to germ-line genome editing in human beings

The PACE Social Affairs Committee once again called on the Council of Europe to ban pregnancy using human embryos that have undergone intentional editing of the genome.

The unanimously adopted declaration recalls that at present the scientific consensus is that the use of such new genetic technologies in humans is unsafe, despite the recent announcement of the birth of twins in China after genetic interference.

Parliamentarians emphasize that deliberate editing of a human embryo crosses the moral trait, which the Parliamentary Assembly considers ethically inviolable.

The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recognizes the urgent need for a wide public debate on the medical potential and the possible ethical and legal implications of using new gene technologies, emphasizing that the decision on whether to allow the human genome to be edited The embryo should not be left solely to scientists.


The Parliamentary Assembly called for a ban on establishing a pregnancy using germ-line cells or human embryos which have undergone intentional genome editing in October 2017 (Recommendation 2115 (2017) on The use of new genetic technologies in human beings), a call which was endorsed by the organisation’s Committee of Ministers in February 2018 (Doc. 14503). The 1997 Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Being with regard to the Application of Biology and Medicine: Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine (ETS No. 164, “Oviedo Convention”), binding on the 29 member States which have ratified it, posits in its Article 13 that “an intervention seeking to modify the human genome may only be undertaken for preventive, diagnostic or therapeutic purposes and only if its aim is not to introduce any modifications in the genome of any descendants”.

The Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong took place on 27- 29 November 2018. At the summit, a claim was heard that human embryos had been edited and implanted in China, resulting in a pregnancy and the birth of twins. The organizing committee of the second summit issued a statement calling the procedure (if verified) “irresponsible” and not in conformity with “international norms”, and reiterated the committee’s continued belief “that proceeding with any clinical use of germline editing remains irresponsible at this time. Nevertheless, germline genome editing could become acceptable in the future if these risks are addressed and if a number of additional criteria are met.

These criteria include strict independent oversight, a compelling medical need, an absence of reasonable alternatives, a plan for long-term follow-up, and attention to societal effects.” The Council of Europe Committee on Bioethics (DH-BIO), representing 47 European states, issued a statement on 30 November 2018 (attached) underlining that “ethics and human rights must guide any use of genome editing technologies in human beings”, and is due to finalise later this month a technical study describing the state of the art of gene editing technologies in human somatic and germ-line cells in the health field and another study providing an overview of the ethical issues at stake.


Based on PACE documents