Briefing: China’s new civil code draft adds regulations for human gene editing
May 21, 2019
What happened: The most recent draft of China’s updated civil code includes new regulations protecting human genes in adults or embryos from experimentation that could “endanger human health or violate ethical norms.” The new law lists a person’s genes in a section of protected personality rights, and according to lawyers who spoke to Nature, anyone experimenting with human genes will be responsible for what happens to their subjects.
Why it’s important: China’s health ministry drafted regulations in March outlining punishments for scientists who violate existing gene-editing rules, but this update to the civil code goes a step further by enshrining the protection of one’s genes as a fundamental right. While the civil code has been undergoing revisions since 2002, additions regarding genes and gene editing come at a time when countries around the world are grappling with how to ethically manage technologies like CRISPR, especially in response to biophysicist He Jiankui’s now-infamous experiment genetically modifying viable human embryos.