The Nuffield Council on Bioethics said there is no reason in principle to rule out heritable genome editing - when the DNA of a human embryo, sperm or egg is deliberately altered to influence the characteristics of a future individual.
While genome editing for reproductive purposes is "currently unlawful" in the United Kingdom, the authors state, "there is potential for genome editing to be used in a wider variety of more common circumstances, and for a wider range of purposes that may be unrelated to the avoidance of medical diseases or disorders". However, it urges research into the safety and effectiveness of the approach, its societal impact, and a widespread debate of its implications.
"There must be action now to support public debate and to put in place appropriate governance", the council added.
Under current law, scientists are allowed to genetically edit human embryos for 14 days for research, but they must be destroyed, and it's illegal to implant them in the womb.
The report concludes that two principles are key to the ethical acceptability of heritable genome editing: securing the "welfare of the future person" who inherits edited DNA, and seeking to ensure that genome editing does not "increase disadvantage, discrimination or division in society".
But arguably, the most controversial aspect of gene editing concerns the potential to introduce changes to the germline - DNA alterations that would pass down the generations.
'Initially, this might involve preventing the inheritance of a specific genetic disorder.
"There is still uncertainty over the sorts of things genome editing might be able to achieve, or how widely its use might spread", the council stated.
Sarah Norcross, Director of the Progress Educational Trust (the charity that publishes BioNews), said: 'We welcome this report's conclusion that the clinical use of genome editing to make heritable changes may be ethically acceptable, if certain stipulations are met.
The Guardian said that in a new study, released on Monday in the journal Nature Biotechnology, British researchers found that Crispr-Cas9, the most popular genome editing tool, caused more damage to DNA than originally believed.
George Church, a Harvard University geneticist, who was not involved in the report, told The Guardian that he agreed with the report that editing DNA "should not be expected to increase disadvantage, discrimination, or division in society", but that making changes to some genes could save some babies from painful diseases.