Congressional Debate Heats Up on Germ Line Editing

Recently a story by Sara Reardon for Nature broke that the US House of Representatives had introduced as part of the 2016 spending package a Bill that would seek to add restrictions on top of already existing regulatory provisions and guidelines in respect to human genetic editing of embryos, sperm or eggs (germ line cells).

The idea would be to restrict access to federal funds to evaluate or permit proposed research applications in this area. This would in effect stall any positive progress in the US in respect to basic biology questions in regard to potential solutions for inherited genetic disorders. Mitochondrial technologies that are being considered would for example be effected by this ban.

In addition, the language in the House Appropriations Committee's Bill would look to establish an “an independent panel of experts, including those from faith-based institutions with expertise on bioethics and faith-based medical associations” to review recommendations from federal advisory institutions, such as the US Institute of Medicine (IOM), with regard to such technologies and their use.

Non-viable embryos would be notably allowable under these new proposed rules for research purposes.

The US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) who oversees the IOM are due to conduct a review of the human gene editing area later this fall, as noted in the video below and detailed in the NAS/NAM press release here.

As a few have pointed out the involvement of "faith-based institutions" doesn't seem to warrant concern as the topic is for the entire community to discuss and participation from all members is recommended. Consensus can only be legitimate if all voices have had equal representation in the discussions.

However, this I believe is more to the point. Where does it state that democracy first establishes law then allows inclusive debate? This initiative seems on the surface to be more of the same rather than a genuine effort to collaborate on an effective and universally applicable set of guidelines for legislative consideration in all international jurisdictions.