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GE babies banned - problems remain with HART bill

6 August, 2004

GE babies banned but problems remain with HART bill

The Green Party is delighted that its recommendations to prohibit the genetic engineering of human beings has been adopted in the Human Assisted Reproductive Technology (HART) bill, Green MP Sue Kedgley said today.

"This prohibition, together with a ban on human cloning and sex selection, removes some of the worst excesses of human assisted reproductive research and technology from the legislation," said Ms Kedgley, the Deputy Chair of the Health Select Committee that considered the bill.

Ms Kedgley said the Green Party was also delighted that proper public consultation procedures had been included in the bill, requiring a Ministerial Advisory Committee to call for public submissions when it is considering significant or potentially controversial new applications for assisted human technology.

However, Ms Kedgley said she is concerned that the Committee turned down her proposal that the bill give clear direction that embryo selection techniques, such as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, could only be used to prevent serious genetic disorders or diseases.

"The failure of the bill to address this area means that the Ministerial Advisory Committee will have the power to approve the use of embryo selection for any genetic characteristics such as blue eyes or enhanced athleticism.

"This would open the door for parents to be able to select embryos with attributes and abilities they like, even when there is no possibility of a genetic disorder."

Ms Kedgley said the Green Party's other major concern with the legislation was that it was far too permissive, and delegated far too much power to an un-elected committee of officials to decide on a wide range of potentially controversial policies about human assisted reproductive technology.

"Despite all of our efforts to strengthen it, the bill establishes one of the most permissive regulatory regimes for assisted human reproductive technologies in the world," said Ms Kedgley. "By contrast overseas countries such as the UK and Australia have strict licensing regimes which ensure the public has confidence that potentially controversial areas are strictly controlled."

"The bill does not provide for parliamentary scrutiny of potentially highly controversial decisions, and does not provide any legislative guidance for significant and potentially contentious issues such as the importation of embryos."


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