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About United Kingdom Policies & Human Biotechnology


The United Kingdom's Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA), established in 1991, is often considered a model for regulating and overseeing human biotechnologies. It licenses and monitors all research involving human embryos, and all facilities offering in vitro fertilization or storage of eggs, sperm, or embryos. UK law does not permit certain activities involving human embryos.

The HFEA's 21 members are appointed by UK Health Ministers; at least half of them are required to be neither doctors nor scientists involved in human embryo research or infertility treatment.

To grant a research license, the HFEA must be satisfied that the use of human embryos is "necessary or desirable" for an enumerated purpose. The HFEA inspects licensed clinics annually; produces a Code of Practice that guides clinics on proper conduct; keeps a formal registry for donors, treatments, and children born; and conducts public consultations on controversial applications.



Written evidence for the Genomics and Genome-Editing Inquiry of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committeeby Edward Hockings and Lewis CoyneEthics and GeneticsJanuary 20th, 2017UK’s bioscience policy has been framed in terms of commercial value at the expense of substantive public consultation and broader deliberation.
Do We Need an International Body to Regulate Genetic Engineering?by Kristen V. BrownGizmodoJanuary 18th, 2017Science reaches across borders, which poses challenging questions for us to decide what the future should look like--locally and globally.
Fertility Futility: Procedures Claimed to Boost IVF Success Lack Supporting Evidenceby Sandy OngNewsweekJanuary 12th, 2017Of nearly 30 expensive clinic add-ons reviewed by researchers, only one drew some evidence of boosting the chances of having a baby.
The Promise and Peril of Emerging Reproductive Technologiesby Ekaterina PeshevaHarvard Medical SchoolJanuary 11th, 2017IVG, thus far successful only in mice, allows scientists to create embryos in a lab by reprogramming any type of adult cell to become a sperm or egg cell.
Designer babies: an ethical horror waiting to happen?by Philip BallThe Guardian January 8th, 2017A perfectly feasible 10-20% improvement in health via PGD, added to the comparable advantage that wealth already brings, could lead to a widening of the health gap between rich and poor, both within a society and between nations.
2016 Fear vs Hope: Gene Editing— Terrible turning point?by Pete ShanksDeccan ChronicleJanuary 1st, 2017As the tools for gene editing rapidly advance, we approach our best chance to prevent the rise of a modern, uncontrolled and dangerously ill-considered techno-eugenics.
Unexpected Risks Found In Replacing DNA To Prevent Inherited Disordersby Jill NeimarkNPRJanuary 1st, 2017Scientists are increasingly concerned that "3-person IVF" techniques may allow flawed mitochondria to resurface and threaten a child's health.
Babies made from three people approved in UKby James GallagherBBC NewsDecember 15th, 2016Some scientists have questioned the technique, saying it could open the door to genetically-modified 'designer' babies.
Comment on UK Decision to Move Ahead with “3-Person IVF”[Press statement]December 15th, 2016The decision is part of a disturbing trend toward the normalization of an experimental technology that is still widely considered unsafe, and whose implications for future generations are unknown.
Biopolitical News of 2016by Pete Shanks, Leah Lowthorp & Marcy DarnovskyBiopolitical TimesDecember 13th, 2016We highlight 2016’s trends in and top news stories about human biotech developments.
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