White House supports moratorium on human genetic modification

John_HoldrenThe Obama Administration today weighed in on human germline genetic modification via a note from John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The White House indicated support for the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) plans to convene an international meeting on human germline genetic modification including CRISPR-Cas9 technology:

“The White House applauds NAS and NAM for convening this dialogue and fully supports a robust review of the ethical issues associated with using gene-editing technology to alter the human germline. The Administration believes that altering the human germline for clinical purposes is a line that should not be crossed at this time.”

That last sentence is a very strong statement supportive of a moratorium.

The note also mentions the recent Chinese report on editing of human embryos, saying:

“Research along these lines raises serious and urgent questions about the potential implications for clinical applications that could lead to genetically altered humans. The full implications of such a step could not be known until a number of generations had inherited the genetic changes made — and choices made in one country could affect all of us.”

Overall, I would say this is a positive step for the White House in this increasingly important area of science and medicine.