The Round Table, as well as the International Dialogue on Bioethics and Ethics of Science and New Technologies (ID-BEST) organised the following day, are timed and convened in the context of the Global Ethics and Bioethics Week 2019, a joint initiative to promote bioethics and the ethics of science and technology, emphasising awareness raising and the importance of structural public engagement on these critical issues.
Perspectives and conclusions from the roundtable will feed into the preparation of the EGE’s Opinion on the Ethical Implications of Gene Editing, requested by the European Commission, and due to be issued beginning 2020.
The event will be opened by Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation and will comprise three panels:
The first panel will focus on gene editing in humans, disentangling the complex ethical, social and moral questions associated with modifying the human genome, through both somatic and germline (heritable) gene editing. While gene editing offers the potential to treat and prevent life-threatening diseases, it invokes questions of safety, risk and uncertainty in a domain where we do not yet have full understanding of how the genome functions. The panel will explore how gene editing technology bears on principles of human dignity, responsibility, and justice: what do we owe to future generations, what societal consequences arise with the ability to ‘design’ human beings and what does it mean for notions of humankind?
The second panel will focus on the use of gene editing in animals, including its application in experimental research and agriculture. With gene-edited farm animals touted to become a key part of the agricultural system, the panel will explore questions of animal welfare, food security and the impact of gene editing on the wider agricultural model of industrial farming. In research, using gene-edited animals to model human diseases or grow organs for transplantation raises questions about the limits of ‘humanisation’, and whether the use of certain species such as non-human primates deserve special ethical consideration. How should new techniques to engineer living things bear on our treatment of animals as sentient beings with their own intrinsic value?
The third panel will explore the complex ethical questions linked to gene editing in plants, including its application in agriculture as well as wider biodiversity considerations. The gene editing of plants intended for the human food chain poses questions of safety, traceability and how to engage with public perception and preferences against a background of contested knowledge. The panel will touch upon specific regulatory implications, as reflected in the July 2018 ruling by the European Court of Justice which decrees that new techniques such as gene editing are, by law, genetic modification and must be regulated as such. Furthermore, it will ask how we might weigh the potential benefits of this technology (in terms of food security, sustainability, combating climate change) against its potential impacts on the commercial agricultural model and possible risks to biodiversity and the environment
Registration is open until 13 October 2019 and all interested individuals and organisations are encouraged to register early to secure a place. As the number of participants is limited by the capacity of the venue, we would request organisations/institutions to limit attendance to a maximum of two representatives per body.
Should you be unable to attend the event but wish to pose a question or provide your viewpoint on gene editing to the European Group on Ethics, please do so by completing the following form.