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By Philip Fine

Under Canada’s 2004 Assisted Human Reproduction Act (AHRA), a researcher altering an egg or sperm cell runs the risk of incurring a fine of up to $500,000 or a 10-year prison sentence. According to lawyer Erika Kleiderman, BSc’10, Academic Associate, Centre of Genomics and Policy, this law was a product of a time marked by fears surrounding Dolly the cloned sheep and a Raëlian cloning hoax. “It was an environment fuelled by dystopian ideas. The go-to approach
was to prohibit.” There has never been any question of using these modified cells for clinical fertility procedures, says Kleiderman, adding that there is a consensus among Canadian stem cell researchers
on the need to further study the safety of genetic alteration. The arrival of CRISPR, a more efficient gene editing system, has made it apparent how useful this line of research can be. In a few short years, CRISPR has already contributed to advances in our understanding of miscarriage, HIV immunity and muscular dystrophy—research that is currently prohibited in Canada. Kleiderman would like to see genetic research overseen by a regulatory or review agency, as is the case in the United Kingdom. ” Criminal law is not the most appropriate tool to regulate and oversee genetic testing and reproductive medicine.” (Philip Fine)

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