fertilization to proceed with little regulatory oversight. This is a central
concern, and one that the new NAM Report tackles with some strong
recommendations for regulating such germline enhancement.82
III. GOVERNING THE RISKS OF NEW SCIENTIFIC TECHNOLOGIES
A. Why Does It Matter?
1. Self-Regulation is Admirable….and Suspect.
If self-regulation has some value in science, it is unclear how it offers any
security in the world of start-up biotech companies or DIY science by
individuals. Earlier controversies surrounding genetic editing, such as the
recombinant DNA debates of the 1970s, involved claims of the
trustworthiness of scientific self-regulation in scientific research.83 Scientists
claimed then that self-governance was effective. If that was so, then freedom
from outside regulation was justified.84 However, the history of the earlier
rDNA controversy over the risks and uncertainties of gene engineering does
not offer much encouragement for reliance on scientific self-regulation.
Susan Wright’s conclusion, after her exhaustive historical review of both the
U.S. and British regulatory approaches, was as follows:
The original policies of the United States and the United Kingdom,
although framed narrowly, were unusual in attempting to forestall the
emergence of unknown hazards from a novel form of technology and in
requiring a degree of international cooperation for their success. The
abandonment of those policies signified a return to laissez-faire
development of technology driven primarily by the interests of its funders
and creators and by the conditions of international industrial and scientific
Some of the reasons for the abandonment of regulation, according to
Wright, included the structure of American research—serial competitive
funding made it hard for university researchers to tolerate any form of
regulatory activity which might slow down or limit their access to research
82. See generally, Comm. on Human Gene Editing: Scientific, Medical, and Ethical
Considerations, Nat’l. Acad. of Sci. and Nat’l. Acad. of Med., Human Genome Editing:
Science, Ethics, and Governance (2017) (prepublication),
[hereinafter the NAM Report].
83. See Furrow, supra note 2, at 1409–11.
84. Id. at 1412.
85. SUSANWRIGHT,MOLECULARPOLITICS:DEVELOPINGAMERICAN ANDBRITISH
REGULATORY POLICY FOR GENETIC ENGINEERING 456 (1994).