News19 March 2021Brussels, BelgiumResearch and Innovation
Genome editing: Commission’s Ethics Group calls for wide-ranging societal debate and global governance
The European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE), an independent advisory body to the Commission, has today published its Opinion on the ethics of genome editing. The Opinion analyses ethical questions raised by the application of genome editing in humans, animals and plants, and hence spans health, research, agriculture and environmental aspects.
Genome editing refers to new forms of targeted intervention to alter the genomes of any organisms. The Opinion’s area-specific analyses are complemented by overarching considerations on long-debated questions revived by genome editing, notably about the different meanings that ought to be attributed to humanness, naturalness and diversity.
The EGE is calling for a wide-ranging and inclusive societal debate on genome editing, for efforts towards joint monitoring and learning with regard to both regulatory and scientific developments, and for international engagement towards global governance. The debate should be based on democratic principles, take into account present and future generations and include local and European perspectives.
The Opinion was delivered to the President of the European Commission and to Commissioner Gabriel (Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth), and transmitted to Commissioners Kyriakides (Health and Food Safety), Sinkevičius (Environment, Oceans and Fisheries) and Wojciechowski (Agriculture).
The EGE is an independent, multi-disciplinary body appointed by the President of the European Commission, which advises on all aspects of Commission policies and legislation where ethical, societal and fundamental rights dimensions intersect with the development of science and new technologies.
The EGE was initially established in 1991 by President Jacques Delors. It reports to the President, and to the College of Commissioners as a whole, under the direct responsibility of Commissioner Gabriel. The Group brings together 15 leading thinkers from Europe and worldwide, from the fields of natural and social sciences and humanities, philosophy, ethics and law. In the last three years, advice was provided on topics such as artificial intelligence, the future of work, and COVID-19 and health crises.
This is the 32nd Opinion of the EGE and follows a formal request by the European Commission to examine the ethical issues surrounding novel genome editing techniques across all areas of application. The Opinion builds on the EGE’s Statement on gene editing.