Between Moral Hazard and Legal uncertainty? Ethical, legal and Societal Challenges of Gene Editing

Third party funded individual grant

Project Details

Project leader:
Prof. Dr. Peter Dabrock
Dr. Matthias Braun

Contributing FAU Organisations:
Lehrstuhl für Systematische Theologie II (Ethik)

Funding source: Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)
Start date: 01/10/2016
End date: 30/09/2018

Abstract (technical / expert description):

Gene Editing techniques are seen to be at the frontier of current research in the field of emerging biotechnologies. However, such biotechnological research  is tensioned at the interface of science, technology and society. This means that biotechnological research such as on Gene Editing techniques offers a tremendous potential to provide new ideas, methods and – in the long run – novel applications for urgent societal challenges and needs on the one hand. On the other hand, such techniques are also perceived as having the potential to challenge and sometimes blur existing perceptions, values as well as comprehensive cultural modes of public understanding. The latest development within Gene Editing Techniques, the so-called CRISPR/Cas9 technology, represents a paradigmatic example for the ambiguity of such techniques and has been resulting in a debate whether or not it is necessary to ban this technique with a moratorium in the case of its use for germ line modifications. Thus, not only a discussion is taking place whether Gene Editing techniques should be banned in general or only if applied in human embryos. Furthermore it is also at debate which moral and legal reasons are respective considered in dealing with this technique. Interestingly, not only the field of science constitutes an arena for the ongoing discussion on the use of CRISPR/Cas9 to edit the human germ line. Gene editing has become part of a broader public reasoning that particularly put the question to the point which argumentation should be adduced in order to develop a societal and consequently political dealing with such a technology. Thus, the currently urgent question is how we could scrutinise the reported public as well as scientific unease in dealing with CRISPR/Cas9 in order to analyse the underlying moral and legal deliberation processes. To put the point straight: The main problem is not the use of CRISPR/Cas9 itself. The main task is to reach a stage in which we are able to outline the underlying moral and legal reasoning in order to build a sustainable frame for responsible research. Therefore, the aim of this project is to substantially contribute to the current debate about a responsible as well as participatory frame for research with emerging biotechnologies by analysing the underlying perceptions, attitudes, arguments and the reasoning in dealing with CRISPR/Cas9.


Braun, M., Schickl, H., & Dabrock, P. (Eds.) (2018). Between Moral Hazard and Legal Uncertainty? Ethical, Legal and Societal Challenges of Gene Editing. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.

Last updated on 2019-14-03 at 13:33