December 3, 2021

What the man in the street thinks about human enhancement

Overwhelmingly against germline modification

What does the American public think about human germline enhancement? A survey of 17 polls taken over the 30 years published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that Americans support gene therapy for patients with serious diseases, but they oppose it in embryos or germ cells. The authors conclude: “Of course, public opinion could change over time as discussions of these issues continue to evolve and as more is learned about the implications and safety of gene-editing technologies.”

However, Pete Shanks, at the Center for Genetics and Society, in California, reaches a different conclusion from much the same information. The latest polls show that more than 80% of people surveyed thought that babies should not be genetically modified for increased intelligence or sporting ability. “These are, or should be, devastating numbers to anyone who thinks that the public supports human heritable genetic modification,” he concludes. 

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