Pew Research Center reports that most Americans approve of gene editing for babies to prevent serious medical issues, but less than 1 in 5 support messing with levels of intelligence. Photo courtesy of Max Pixel
FRIDAY, July 27, 2018 -- Gene editing is no longer just fodder for sci-fi movies. Most Americans believe it's OK to tweak a baby's DNA under certain circumstances, a new poll finds.
The Pew Research Center, based in Washington, D.C., found almost three-quarters of Americans approve of gene editing to prevent serious health problems in babies.
But tampering with their intelligence is going too far, the survey results show.
About 72 percent of more than 2,500 adult respondents in the survey said using gene editing on unborn children to treat a serious disease or condition they might have at birth would be an appropriate use of the technology.
Sixty percent said the same about using gene editing to prevent a serious health problem later in life.
However, not even 1 in 5 felt it was appropriate to use gene editing to boost a baby's IQ, according to the survey conducted April 23 to May 6, 2018.
And only one-third of respondents support gene editing if its development requires testing on human embryos.
Differences emerged in the responses of highly religious and less religious people. Only 46 percent of highly religious respondents believe it's appropriate to use gene editing to reduce a baby's risk of disease later in life, compared with 73 percent of less religious people.
Men were more supportive than women of gene editing in unborn babies. People with high levels of science knowledge voiced more support than those with little science background.
The survey also found that 58 percent of respondents believe gene editing is highly likely to result in increased inequality because only wealthy people will be able to afford it.
Also, more than half believe it's very likely that "even if gene editing is used appropriately in some cases, others will use these techniques in ways that are morally unacceptable."
Is it very likely that gene editing will lead to new medical advances that benefit society as a whole? Only 18 percent believe that's the case, the researchers said.
The survey findings were released July 26.
Learn more about gene editing at yourgenome.org.
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