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Dutch PM Jan Peter Balkenende - could the issue of embryo testing bring his 4th cabinet down?
Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's fourth cabinet has narrowly avoided its first internal crisis since coming to power in February 2007. In this instance the upset wasn't caused by a major international issue such as Dutch participation in the NATO mission in Afghanistan, or an imminent economic danger like the spiralling oil price, but by the domestic practice of carrying out tests for certain genetic defects on embryos during In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) treatment.

This particular practice - known as Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis - was first developed in the United Kingdom in 1989. Since then, over 1000 babies worldwide have been born after undergoing this kind of testing, out of more than one million successful pregnancies to result from IVF treatment.

Technical issue
Dutch law prescribes that, prior to implantation in the mother's womb, IVF embryos may only be tested for a very limited number of defects, all of which must inevitably lead to life-threatening illnesses. Tests for Muscular Dystrophy and Huntington's disease are, for example, allowed under the current legislation. If an embryo is found to have genes...