UK Grants All the Scientists' Wishes

Posted by Jesse Reynolds October 29, 2008
Biopolitical Times

After two years of wrangling and reports, the bill to overhaul the United Kingdom's oversight of assisted reproduction and embryo research has finally passed. The Human Fertilization and Embryology Act of 2008 [PDF bill, and final amendments] grants researchers essentially all that they asked for, and then some. 

One green light is for the high-profile issue of using animal eggs in human cloning-based stem cell research, a process that creates "cytoplasmic hybrids." Researchers will also be permitted to fertilize a human egg with animal sperm or vice-versa, forming "true hybrids," despite the fact that no one has produced a reason to actually do this.  And thanks to a last-minute amendment, stem cell scientists will also be able to create clonal embryos from tissues of people - including the dead - who did not give their explicit consent for this procedure. 

Perhaps most importantly, the revised Act now explicitly permits the genetic modification of human embryos for research, under license (although these were permitted under an ad hoc license last year. Correction, Nov. 6: So such license has been issued.)

For more information, see the background research of David King of Human Genetics Alert (1, 2 [PDF], 3 [PDF], 4 [PDF])

Previously on Biopolitical Times: