The move is intended to send a clear signal to maverick researchers, and the scientific community more broadly, that any attempt to rewrite the DNA of sperm, eggs or embryos destined for live births is not acceptable.
Beyond a formal freeze on any such work, the experts want countries to register and declare any plans that scientists may put forward in the future, and have these discussed through an international body, potentially run by the World Health Organisation.
Alongside technical debates about the possible benefits of creating genetically modified babies, the scientists said no decisions should be made to go ahead without broad public support.
“What we want to see are wise and open decisions,” said Eric Lander, founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “We want to make sure that countries don’t do things secretly, that we declare what we’re thinking, discuss it openly, and be prepared for debate and disagreement.”
Lander, who co-chaired Barack Obama’s council of advisors on science and technology, calls for the moratorium with 16 other experts in the journal Nature. Emmanuelle Charpentier and Feng Zhang, who helped discover and develop the most common gene editing tool, Crispr, contributed to the article.
Designer babies are a great idea, if I could I would definitely create my own! This sounds a bit like an anti-diversity policy to me. Go! Create!