Men Are More Likely Than Women To Accept Genetic Engineering Of Babies, Study Says

Evie Fordham | Contributor

Men are more likely than women to react positively to gene editing human embryos to make babies healthier or even smarter, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

Sixty-five percent of men believe that “gene editing to reduce a baby’s risk of developing a serious disease later in life” is an acceptable use of technology compared with 54 percent of women, according to Thursday’s Pew survey. Forty-three percent of men are okay with testing gene editing on human embryos compared with 24 percent of women.

Genetically engineering babies to prevent future health risks or even to enhance their intelligence is a topic that has been debated in the scientific community for years. Now it is becoming a reality. Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology edited the DNA of single-celled human embryos in 2017, and Chinese scientists claim they have genetically edited human embryos as well.

The Pew survey asked 2,537 U.S. adults about their views on human gene editing between April 23 and May 26. The survey noted divides among U.S. adults depending characteristics like how religious they are, as well as their knowledge of science and gender. (RELATED: DRUGMAKER GLAXOSMITHKLINE GETS ACCESS TO INFO FROM MILLIONS OF 23ANDME CUSTOMERS)

For example, 24 percent of men approve of genetically engineering babies to make them “more intelligent” compared to 13 percent of women.

A majority of U.S. adults are wary of gene editing. Fifty-eight percent said it is “very likely” that gene editing to control a baby’s characteristics will result in increased inequality as only the wealthy will have access to the treatment.

Other findings in the Pew survey include that:

  • Over two-thirds (65 percent) of Americans say developing gene editing techniques by testing on human embryos is “too far.”
  • Forty percent of Americans who consider themselves highly religious disapprove of “gene editing to treat a congenital disorder in a baby” compared with 18 percent of people who have a low religious commitment.
  • Americans with high science knowledge are 28 percentage points more likely to approve of “gene editing to treat a congenital disorder in a baby” (86 percent) compared with 58 percent of Americans with low science knowledge.

Overall, a majority of U.S. adults approve of gene editing to deliver “direct health benefits for babies,” but a majority of U.S. adults disapprove of gene editing to enhance a baby’s intelligence or appearance.

Follow Evie on Twitter @eviefordham.

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