Roundtable on "Genome editing: why ethics matter”

UNESCO Paris, France, 12 September 2018
Room XI, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

This roundtable is organized with funding support from Japan.

Recent developments in gene editing techniques, including the much discussed CRISPR-Cas9 technique, have made the editing of specific gene sequences of any living organism much easier, faster and cheaper. These techniques are being rapidly applied in various areas related to humans, animals and plants. In the area of human health, these techniques are being used in biomedical research to develop medical therapies, and it is widely anticipated that many serious diseases could be treated in the future, such as diabetes, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, thalassemia, etc. Furthermore, recent gene editing techniques are already being used in animals and plants, including in the food production industry.

However, the application of recent gene editing techniques raises a number of ethical concerns such as safety issues, impacts on future generations and on the environment, patent issues, justice and equity issues, etc. The power of recent techniques to edit targeted genes with greater certainty and rapidness has widened the scope and scale of their application. Furthermore, it has been argued that recent gene editing techniques differ from other established techniques, and therefore existing legal frameworks applied to GMOs and other gene therapies are most likely insufficient or out of scope. As such, there is an urgent need to create better understanding of these recent gene editing techniques and their related ethical implications, and to seek common approaches at the global level to address ethical challenges posed by them.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the IBC and the 20th anniversary of the IGBC and COMEST, a number of special events is being organized. As part of this series, UNESCO has created this roundtable to bring these issues to the discussion of the general public and highlight current and potential areas of research and application using these recent techniques that will impact humans, animals, plants and the environment.

Moderator and speakers

The discussion will be moderated by Prof. Hervé Chneiweiss, Chairperson of the Ethics Committee of the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), and a member of the International Bioethics Committee of UNESCO (IBC).

The speakers in the roundtable are:

  • Dr Peter Mills
    Assistant Director at the UK’s Nuffield Council on Bioethics; Doctor in Philosophy; former member of the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA); former head of the Human Genetics Commission Secretariat; and has been a delegate to the UNESCO Intergovernmental Bioethics Committee.
  • Dr Jennifer Merchant
    Professor, Paris II University; Doctor in Political Science; member of the Ethics Committee of INSERM; and responsible for the Science/Society group of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s report on genome editing in 2017.
  • Dr Carine Giovannangeli
    Director of the Institute of Molecular and Structural Basis of Life Sciences at Aviesan, Doctor in Molecular Biophysics, and group leader in a CNRS-INSERM-Museum lab.


You can also join us for the Facebook Live session of the Roundtable on UNESCO's Facebook account.


Register online
(before 3 September 2018)

After online registration, you will receive an invitation card to access the roundtable.

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