Abstract: In this paper I argue that current law and policy governing germline genetic modification are overly broad and in fact prohibit medical interventions normally considered unobjectionable. The root of the problem lies in the fact law and policy tend to espouse a near categorical ban on medical interventions that alter germline DNA.
However, if we pay close attention to the biological mechanisms at play we see that many standard medical interventions result in alterations to DNA that can be transmitted to future generations. The correct focus of policy and regulation thus ought to be determining which kinds of transmissible genetic modifications ought to be permitted, and not whether they should be permitted at all.
Given that the scientific classification of biological structures involved in the inheritance of traits is unlikely to be in itself ethically significant, ethicists ought to develop a definition of 'gene' fit for ethical purposes.