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Opinion
Adam Minter

Giving China a Say in Science

The world can't set new ethical guidelines for gene research without Chinese input.
Chinese researchers may have more tolerance for human experimentation.

Chinese researchers may have more tolerance for human experimentation.

Photographer: Guang Niu/Getty Images

In the last three years, hundreds of laboratories around the world have acquired the ability to cut-and-paste genes with the ease and precision of a word processor’s find-and-replace function. The technology, known as CRISPR, is cheap, relatively simple and to this point, has been mostly used on animals and plants.

That won’t last, however. In April, a team of Chinese scientists announced they’d used CRISPR to edit genes in human embryos, and in September a group of U.K. scientists asked for permission to do the same. The two cases are raising fears that genetic engineering may be progressing faster than the consequences can be properly understood and the practice regulated.