Advancement in gene editing technologies such as CRISPR is fueling new scientific discoveries in cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and various gene therapies, enabling life-saving treatments and promising to revolutionize healthcare. But gene editing, like so many emerging technologies, has its ethical downsides. Broader application of gene-editing tools can lead to the risk of dangerous modifications let loose in the human gene pool, the use of technology to make designer babies, unethical eugenic uses that harm disability communities, and unequal access to the technology. In the absence of binding international law in this domain, effective governance will rely on robust regulation at the national level. UNESCO will develop and pilot (3 countries) a training module for national authorities on gene editing, based on the normative instruments and other materials.
UNESCO's Bioethics Programme was created in 1993. Its first major success occurred in 1997 when the General Conference adopted the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights, followed by two additional declarations in this field. The Bioethics Programme also acts as an adviser to the Member States wishing to promote reflection and debate on bioethics, to set up national ethics committees and to define national standards and/or legislation in the field.
The project is expected to produce a training module on the ethics of gene editing, which will be piloted in at least 3 National Bioethics Committees to support their capacity building. It aims to increase this number by 3-5 each year.