Human Genetics Alert

Phone/Fax: 020 7502 7516


For Immediate release May 19th

Genetic modification: this time it's personal

MPs miss key 'designer baby' issue in HFE Bill

 When MPs vote today on the HFE Bill, they are likely to miss its most dangerous provision:the legalisation of research on GM embryos. When most people think of embryos, one of their first thoughts is ‘designer babies'. It is strange therefore, that when the first steps to real, actual 'designer babies' are being legalised, the media, MPs and the public seem almost entirely unaware of it.

In fact, the HFE Bill legalises the creation of genetically modified embryos, and Government documents show that they fully intend to legalise the creation of GM children when the technology is safe (1). Last weekend, HGA (2) was able to reveal that US scientists have created the world's first GM embryo (3). Defeat of the sections of the bill dealing with human-animal hybrid embryos will not block the creation of GM embryos, since this is independently legalised by a separate section of the Bill (4).

Once genetically modification was allowed to treat disease (even though this is unnecessary), it would very soon be used to create 'enhanced' babies. This would open the door to consumer eugenics and a society based on hierarchies of 'genetic merit'.

The attached briefings detail the Government's plans and the case against Human Genetic Modification. It is vital that MPs are alerted to the danger that the HFE Bill poses. The legal briefing explains why the Government has been able to introduce this extraordinary measure, with practically no public debate, and outlines the major loophole in its protection against the immediate creation of GM children.

Dr David King, Director of Human Genetics Alert, said: “We urge MPs to support amendments blocking the legalisation of GM embryos.  If nothing is done now, in a few years scientists will once again present us with a fait accompli, yet MPs are completely unaware of what is happening. The public will be outraged when it finds that a major step towards 'designer babies' is being legalised."

Dr David King can be contacted on 020 7502 7516, or 07854 256040. Dr King will be speaking at the Policy Exchange seminar on hybrid embryos on Thursday evening (15th May).

Notes for editors

1. The attached consultation document, which preceded the Bill shows (Paras 5.33-5.38) that the government intends to eventually allow the creation of GM children. In fact, the Government initially intended to take this enormous step by way of regulations, without even a full Parliamentary debate.

2. Human Genetics Alert is a secular, independent watchdog group, which supports women's reproductive rights. 3. The creation of the world's first genetically modified embryo was published in the Sunday Times: 4. See attached legal briefing