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Sunday 24th June 2018

Reforms set out in fertility bill

17th May 2007

The government has put forward a draft bill to allow the creation of human animal hybrid embryos for research.


When a ban was put forward last year, scientists feared that it could hamper medical advances.

The draft bill says hybrid embryos will only be allowed for research into serious illness and scientists will need to hold a licence to carry out such work. The bill permits the formation of human embryos that have been combined with one or more animal cells.

The creation of absolute animal-to-animal hybrids, made by fusing sperm and eggs, will be illegal. Permitting embryos to develop for more than 14 days will also be banned.

Public Health Minister Caroline Flint denied that the government had backed down on the original ban, saying they had been able to view more evidence submitted by scientists concerning the value of hybrid embryo research.

She stated: "We saw this was an area where these [hybrid embryos] could be used for scientific benefit."

Many scientists are in favour of the proposals. Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, head of the division of Developmental Genetics at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research, commented: "This research has many potential benefits for the understanding of disease and for treatments and should not be feared."

Josephine Quintavalle, of the campaign group Comment on Reproductive Ethics, stated: "It is appalling that the government has bowed to pressure...this is a highly controversial and terrifying proposal, which has little justification in science and even less in ethics."

The government intends to update the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 in order to keep up with scientific advances.

Other proposals put forward regarding assisted reproduction in the draft bill include getting rid of the current law for clinics to consider the need for a father when making decisions about treatment.


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