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PACE recommends ‘a clear and total prohibition’ on pregnancies with genetically modified human embryos

Heritable genome editing in human beings

The PACE Standing Committee, meeting in Vaduz, today recommended that the Committee of Ministers call on member states to embrace a “a clear and total prohibition” of establishing a pregnancy with genetically modified germ line cells or human embryos, “by introducing legislation at the national level” and “opposing permissive regulation at European and international level”.

Despite the push by many scientists in the last five years for a “translational pathway for heritable human genome editing” to be developed, there is “a broad consensus” in the scientific community that the current technology is not yet safe and effective enough to establish a pregnancy with genetically modified germ line cells or human embryos, underlines the recommendation adopted by PACE, on the basis of the report by Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC).

No country explicitly permits this practice, and “the risks are serious and manifold, and cannot be ethically justified,” the parliamentarians said.

The recommendation is rooted in the Council of Europe's 1997 Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine (the Oviedo Convention), which states that “an intervention seeking to modify the human genome may only be undertaken for preventive, diagnostic or therapeutic purposes and only if its aim is not to introduce any modifications in the genome of any descendants.” This principle has been further clarified in 2022 to include both the research and the clinical context.

PACE has therefore urged member states which have not yet ratified the Oviedo Convention to do so without further delay.