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How would you engineer a baby? I mean really, actually do it.

Last April, Chinese researchers reported that they had tried genetically editing human embryos for the first time to correct a disease gene. Out of more than 80 embryos, however, only a handful came out correctly. In the rest, the gene didn’t get fixed properly, or they ended up with unintended alterations to their DNA (see “Chinese Team Reports Gene-Editing Human Embryos”).

The scientific community pounced on the problems with a collective phew. Don’t worry, they said, it’s not even practical. Not yet.

Next week, in Washington, D.C., the world’s experts on a powerful new genetic-engineering technology called CRISPR will convene at the National Academy of Sciences for a historic meeting at which they’ll consider calling for a global moratorium on anyone trying to use the technique to make genetically modified babies.

The worry is that changing the DNA of the next generation is unsafe and a slippery slope toward eugenics. Yet many of the scientists attending the Washington meeting won’t be there to ban the technology, but to trade tips about how, exactly, they might be able to do it right.

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