In light of recent reports claiming the birth of the first gene-edited babies, UNESCO reiterates the absolute need to heed internationally agreed principles that affirm the value of human rights and human dignity as the prime concern for any medical research and intervention on human beings.
While developments in genome editing techniques represent a promising scientific advancement with potential benefit for humanity, UNESCO is compelled to remind governments and the scientific community of the ethical principles of the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights (1997).
Caution must be exercised when it comes to gene modifications that will pass on to future generations such as germline therapy and human embryo interventions. In this regard, the International Bioethics Committee of UNESCO called for a moratorium on genome engineering of the human germline, at least as long as the safety and effectiveness of procedures remain unproven (cf. the 2015 Report on Updating its Reflection on the Human Genome and Human Rights.
In line with these recommendations, UNESCO wishes to remind researchers, institutions and governments to respect universally agreed principles and procedures in research, and calls on governments to cooperate in establishing measures to ensure ethically sound research and application of genome editing techniques that respect human dignity and human rights.
UNESCO will continue to monitor and reflect on emerging ethical issues related to genome editing and other developments in the life sciences. The Organization calls for continued international dialogue on the ethical implications of genome editing for the individual, society and humanity as a whole.