|Dr. Richard Nicholson|
The UK-based Human Genetics Alert (HGA) has launched a campaign to prevent Britain from becoming the first country in the world to sanction the production of genetically modified human embryos. As reported in the January issue of Genetic Crossroads, a bill set to be introduced would allow British scientists to begin developing technologies that could be used in efforts toward inheritable genetic modification.
Speaking at an HGA press conference, Dr. Richard Nicholson, editor of the Bulletin of Medical Ethics, said, "Every country that has legislated on this subject has banned it. Thus the British Government's decision breaks ranks with the international community, and may lead to the perception that Britain is a haven for irresponsible and profit-driven scientists."
The proposed law maintains the UK's existing ban on creating genetically modified children. But although the white paper supporting the proposed legislation says that genetically altering eggs, sperm and embryos "should not be permitted for reproductive purposes," it adds that this is only "for the foreseeable future, and until such time as safety and efficacy are assured."
HGA Director Dr. David King asks that letters opposing "GM embryos" be sent as soon as possible to the Minister responsible for the proposed legislation: Caroline Flint MP, Department of Health, Richmond House, 79 Whitehall, London SW1A 2NS; firstname.lastname@example.org. The British government's sensitivity to international opinion makes letters from outside the UK important. Letters to other governments and relevant bodies, urging them to put pressure on the British government, are also helpful. HGA would be grateful for copies of any letters; please send to email@example.com.