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Global Citizen Deliberation on Genome Editing: How to involve the public?

Published on

17 Sep 2020

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The Journal Science has published an article by 25 researchers across the world, including me, on the creation of national and global “citizens’ assemblies” which will consider the ethical and social impacts of the emerging science of genome editing.

Lead author, John Dryzek, head of Australia’s Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the University of Canberra said: 

THE PROMISE, PERILS AND PITFALLS OF THIS EMERGING TECHNOLOGY ARE SO PROFOUND THAT THE IMPLICATIONS OF HOW AND WHY IT IS PRACTISED SHOULD NOT BE LEFT TO EXPERTS

The global citizens' assembly will be preceded and informed by national deliberations in countries across the globe. Events in the US, UK, Australia and China are already planned and fully funded by organisations including the Kettering Foundation, National Institutes of Health, the Australian Government and the Wellcome Genome Campus. Projects in Belgium, France, Germany, Brazil and South Africa are also well advanced.

One of the authors of the Science paper, Dianne Nicol, professor of law at the University of Tasmania said:

THE GOAL OF THE CITIZENS’ ASSEMBLY SHOULDN'T BE TO ANSWER QUESTIONS OF WHETHER HERITABLE GENOME EDITING SHOULD BE PROHIBITED GLOBALLY. RATHER, IT SHOULD BE ABOUT BETTER UNDERSTANDING COMMUNITY CONCERNS AND EXPECTATIONS

The planning process, and eventually the assembly itself, is being recorded by Emmy Award-winning Australian documentary-makers Genepool Productions. This will support the organisers' aim to ensure that the conversations and deliberations within the national and global deliberations inform and stimulate the global debate about genome editing.  Sonya Pemberton, Genepool creative director said: 

THE RESEARCHERS HAVE COME UP WITH A POWERFUL AND PEOPLE-FOCUSSED APPROACH TO EXAMINING A WORLD-CHANGING TECHNOLOGY. CAPTURING THIS WORLD-FIRST EVENT ON FILM, I HOPE, WILL PRESERVE THE HISTORIC OCCASION, AMPLIFY THE GLOBAL CONVERSATION, AND PROVIDE A TEMPLATE FOR CITIZEN DELIBERATION ON OTHER, EQUALLY IMPORTANT MATTERS

Image credit: Alice Mollon