Commentary| Volume 40, ISSUE 2, P224-226, February 2018

CRISPR Gene Editing Should Be Allowed in Canada, But Under What Circumstances?

Published:October 12, 2017DOI:
      Because of its potential ease of use and widespread application to human health, CRISPR-Cas has raised significant ethical and policy debate. The current Canadian policy landscape on whether CRISPR and other gene editing technologies using embryos are permitted is murky under the Assisted Human Reproduction Act. Although the AHRA remains ambiguous, several Canadian scholars interpret a clear prohibition on gene editing but explain “that allowing gene editing in the context of research, including pre-clinical research on germ cells prior to implantation…conforms to the spirit of the Act.”
      • Knoppers B.M.
      • Isasi R.
      • Caulfield T.
      • et al.
      Human gene editing: revisiting Canadian policy.
      On the basis of our analysis of the AHRA and legislative and policy reports, we argue that certain applications of CRISPR to reproductive material would be permissible, but clarification from Health Canada is required before moving forward. Specifically, CRISPR research could be permissible (1) using excess embryos where appropriate evidence demonstrates negligible likelihood of transmission to descendants or when researchers do not intend to transfer embryos to induce pregnancy, and (2) in gametes used to create embryos for studies focused on improving assisted reproductive technologies. Clear direction is required because international trends will force Canada to make more permissible legislative amendments or risk a lag in Canadian science, innovation, and clinical practice.

      Key Words


      AHRA (Assisted Human Reproduction Act), ART (assisted reproductive technology), REBs (Research Ethical Boards), CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats)
      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Knoppers B.M.
        • Isasi R.
        • Caulfield T.
        • et al.
        Human gene editing: revisiting Canadian policy.
        NPJ Regen Med. 2017; 2: 3
        • Assisted Human Reproduction Act
        (Available at:)
        Date: 2012
        Date accessed: January 2, 2017
        • National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
        Human genome editing: science, ethics, and governance.
        National Academies Press, Washington, DC2017
        • Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies
        Proceed with care. Final report of the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies. Vol. 1 and 2. Government of Canada Publications, Ottawa1993
        • Rivard G.
        • Hunter J.
        The law of assisted human reproduction.
        LexisNexis, Toronto2005
      1. 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. November 22, 2002. House of Commons Debates. Edited Hansard, vol. 138, No. 030. 12:20 pm. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga—Maisonneuve).

        • Isasi R.
        • Kleiderman E.
        • Knoppers B.M.
        Editing policy to fit the genome?.
        Science. 2016; 351: 337-339
        • Fears R.
        • ter Meulen V.
        How should the applications of genome editing be assessed and regulated?.
        Elife. 2017; 6: e26295
        • Simón C.
        Personal assisted reproductive technology.
        Fertil Steril. 2013; 100: 922-923
        • Ishii T.
        Germ line genome editing in clinics: the approaches, objectives and global society.
        Brief Funct Genomics. 2017; 16: 45-56
        • TCPS2 2014
        Tri-Council Policy Statement Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans.
        (Available at:)
      2. Assisted Human Reproduction (Section 8 Consent) Regulations SOR/2007-137.
        (Available at:)
        • American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics Board of Directors
        Genome editing in clinical genetics: points to consider – a statement of the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics.
        Genet Med. 2017; 19: 723-724