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Crop Biotech Update

Bibliotheca Alexendrina Holds Workshop on Ethics in Gene Editing

January 18, 2017

A two-day workshop on ethics in gene editing and research methodology was held at Bibliotheca Alexendrina, Alexandria, Egypt on January 4-5, 2017. About 60 scientists from different universities and research institutes were invited to attend the workshop.

Dr. Ismail Serageldin, the director of Bibliotheca Alexendrina welcomed the high eminent professors and discussed recent advances in the genome editing technology. He added that the speed of developing such technologies, with CRISPR-Cas9 technique, makes it possible to improve plant and animal traits in short time, as well as for human germline modification. He said, "the ethical concerns of this technique should be scientifically assessed. It is very important to head off potential fear mongering in the press and reactions by politicians."

The workshop also covered the advantages of gene editing as it is precise, easy, inexpensive, and very efficient. The final conclusion of the workshop includes the following points:

  • CRISPR-Cas9 technique made it possible to edit the DNA with greatly increased specificity and efficiency, and provide a wide scope of applications, but there should be a way to avoid misusage.
  • Genome editing raises substantial ethical concerns, especially that it allows new forms of social injustice, discrimination, and conflicts. Public awareness regarding the social and ethical implications of the technology needs to be carried out.
  • Human genome editing raises concerns about justice, dual use applications, unintended mutations, and others. 

For more information about biotechnology in Africa, send an e-mail to naglaa.abdallah@agr.cu.edu.eg.