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Official statistics show that almost half of embryos used to help a women conceive through in vitro fertilisation were thrown away during or after the process.

The embryos are created from female eggs and male sperm during the IVF process, with some introduced into the womb, put into storage, discarded as unwanted or used in scientific experiments.

Campaigners last night described the figures, released in response to questions from peers about the level of waste generated in hospitals and fertility clinics, as disturbing.

They were gathered by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the fertility industry regulator, which has recorded IVF processes over the past 21 years, and made public by Lord Howe, the Health Minister.

Since August 1991 more than 3.5 million human embryos have been created, producing only 235,480 “gestational sacs” or evidence of successful implantation.

Of the embryos created, almost 840,000 were put into storage for future use and more than 2000 were stored for donation. Almost 5,900 were set aside for scientific research.

Almost 1.4 million embryos were implanted in the hope of beginning pregnancies...