Once a science fiction fantasy, the power to engineer DNA is now within reach. With that power comes complex and sometimes contentious questions about what can, and what should, be done to change ourselves and the world around us. Using a new genome editing technique, known as CRISPR/Cas9, scientists are exploring deletion, alteration, and addition of genes to a huge variety of organisms, from yeast to kumara, and from mosquitoes to dairy cattle. Perhaps most promising, but also most controversial, are the possible uses of the technology in humans.

Kim Hill is joined by bioethicist Josephine Johnston, Director of Research and Research Scholar at The Hastings Centre (the world’s oldest bioethics research institute), and panels of experts to explore the implications of gene editing technologies for New Zealand. These could be used to treat disease, prevent disability, change genes in embryos, improve agricultural production and pest control, and even to shape the genomes of future generations - but should we do this?

Perfectly healthy: Disease-free by technology?

Dunedin, 6pm Thursday 21 September
Location: St David Lecture Theatre, University of Otago
For further information and to book: https://royalsociety.org.nz/events/perfectly-healthy-disease-free-by-technology

Making babies: You, me and gene editing?

Auckland, 4pm Sunday 24 September
Location: Auckland Museum, Event Centre
For further information and to book: https://royalsociety.org.nz/events/making-babies-you-me-and-gene-editing

More for all: Nature by design?

Palmerston North, 6pm Tuesday 26 September
Location: Speirs Centre, Palmerston North Boys High School
For further information and to book: https://royalsociety.org.nz/events/more-for-all-nature-by-design

Editing them out: The end for pests?

Wellington, 6pm Thursday 28 September
Location: Paramount Theatre, Courtenay Place
For further information and to book: https://royalsociety.org.nz/events/editing-them-out-the-end-for-pests

Presented in partnership with the David and Genevieve Becroft Foundation, The University of Auckland, Victoria University of Wellington and RNZ National.

Cost: $25 General Admission / $20 Friends of Society / $15 Members of Society (Professional, Associate, Student)
Doors sales (if available) will be only $30, but guarantee your seat by clicking the links above.

For further information, go to: https://royalsociety.org.nz/news/discussions-exploring-the-ethics-of-gene-editing-for-new-zealand

You might also be interested in this related event: When ‘can do’ crosses ‘should do’: what to do about human gene editing?

Related resources

Use our ethics and science topic to discover articles, videos, teacher resources and more to help engage your students in meaningful ethical discussions. Alternatively the resources below are a good starting point:

Activity idea

The Ethics thinking toolkit provides students with scaffolding when using a range of different ethical frameworks or approaches.

Useful links

A selection of resources around science and ethics can also be viewed on our Pinterest board and in a bucket on Pond.

See all events