Is there a need to changes rules on gene editing?

In 2015 some scientists in China performed a series of experiments involving 86 human embryos to see if they could make changes in a gene known as HBB, which causes the sometimes fatal blood disorder beta-thalassemia.

Their work has been widely condemned by other scientists and watchdog groups, who argue the research is unsafe, premature and raises disturbing ethical concerns.

Changes in gene editions have reached a point that challenges existing legal, regulatory and risk assessment systems, with some applications raising ethical concerns around the world.

Should New Zealand’s 16-year-old laws governing biotechnology be overhauled?

The Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor Dr Juliet Gerrard says our current law is no longer fit for purpose.

She’s backed by the Royal Society, which in August issued a discussion document calling for urgent discussion and debate.

The Royal Society Genetic noted that technologies such as gene editing are developing quickly, and their cost is rapidly falling.

They say this is creating new approaches in health care, environmental management and food production.

Aotearoa New Zealand needs to ensure that its regulatory framework can accommodate these technological developments while protecting our unique environment and indigenous and cultural heritage.

The status of Māori as tangata whenua of Aotearoa, the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi/ the Treaty of Waitangi, and kaitiakitanga create a unique context in which New Zealand’s regulatory framework needs to sit.

Other places such as USA, Europe, Australia and Japan, are currently reviewing their regulatory systems.

The Royal Society Te Apārangi Gene Editing Panel recognises that its competence does not extend to every aspect of regulation design and writing.

However, the Panel’s mandate does include examining and deliberating on the research evidence, the implications of gene-editing technologies, and identifying the issues which might need a policy response.

Click here to listen to Discussion on RNZ


Additional reading

News category: New Zealand, Top Story.

Tags: , ,