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Gene editing research scores low in American poll

STAT News, “reporting from the frontiers of health and medicine”, leads today on a survey it conducted in conjunction with Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health. It seems that the American public is split on whether public funding should be made available to support research into gene therapy. The balance of opinion moves strongly away from 50/50 towards no when the science involves unborn babies – even where such research aims to eliminate disease. Support for gene editing research dwindles still further where the research is engaged in what the article describes as “more frivolous” pursuits, such as working to improve a baby’s intelligence.

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Respondents appeared to acknowledge some value in intelligence in one finding of the survey that otherwise passed without comment. Buried at the bottom of the story was a suggestion that six times as many people feel that decisions on pre-natal gene editing should be made by “scientists, physicians and similar experts”, as opposed to government officials and policy makers. The article reckons this finding underlines a “widespread mistrust of the federal government”.

We might infer that it also reflects a widespread trust in people who actually know what they’re talking about. The article doesn’t contrast this response with an earlier question in the survey revealing that when respondents had “heard or read about changing the genes of unborn babies” they were more in favour of the research.

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