At the end of November 2018 the Chinese scientist Dr He Jiankui claimed to have created the first gene-edited (GM) humans. The twin girls are said to have been born at the beginning of November and have an alteration to their DNA that can confer resistance to HIV. This announcement injected new urgency into the international debate about human genome editing. The news has been confirmed by the Chinese authorities.
Using recent gene editing techniques such as CRISPR-Cas it is relatively simple and easy to make precisely targeted and specific alterations to DNA sequences. This opens up possibilities to alter human DNA sequences in such a way that these modifications are passed on to subsequent generations, for example to prevent genetic disorders. Human genome editing is prohibited by law in most countries, including the Netherlands, and the technology raises technical, legal and ethical issues. In 2017 COGEM and the Health Council of the Netherlands published a joint report on this topic.
In this letter COGEM informs the Dutch government about the developments that have taken place since that earlier report and revises its recommendations in the light of these developments.