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The phrase “designer babies” has been bandied around for decades, but parents seeking to design a baby currently have limited options. They can seek to avoid the birth of a baby with a specific genetic condition, or of an undesired sex, through pre-implantation genetic diagnoses (PGD) which involves IVF and embryo selection.

But they can only select from the available embryos, and, in the UK, only for specified health related conditions. Currently around 360 genetic conditions are licensed for PGD, and 24 are under consideration. Sex selection in UK is only permitted for sex-linked diseases, although sex selection for non-medical reasons is available commercially, mostly outside Europe.

So parents in the UK may select, rather than design a child, on medical grounds. But what about those wanting to choose a child with non-medical traits associated with sporting prowess, musical or artistic ability, general intelligence; or avoid genetic traits associated with depression or aggression; or simply select for the optimum height associated with success at a particular sport, attractiveness or higher earnings?

While parents may say they... see more