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Greens want ban on 'super baby' selection

6 October, 2004

Greens want ban on 'super baby' selection

The Green Party wants to tighten the rules around embryo selection technology to prevent prospective parents from selecting "designer baby" embryos on cosmetic grounds, such as the colour of eyes, or because of prospective athletic ability.

Green MP Sue Kedgley will be putting amendments up in the House today during Parliament's consideration of the Human Assisted Reproductive Technology bill to stop the technology being used to select embryos for reasons other than preventing serious genetic diseases or to increase the likelihood of implantation.

"We strongly support the use of embryo selection techniques such as Pre-implementation Genetic Diagnosis to help couples who carry genes for disorders such as Huntington's disease and cystic fibrosis ensure that their children are not afflicted," said Ms Kedgley.

"However we are strongly opposed to the use of this technology for social or eugenic purposes. The problem is that the way the bill is presently drafted, it could be used to allow people to select embryos for any other genetic characteristic except sex."

Ms Kedgley said this problem was demonstrated by the new draft guidelines issued by the National Ethics Committee on Assisted Human Reproduction that may allow the use of the technology to select cosmetic desirable traits in offspring and screen out undesirable ones on a case-by-case basis.

"We want the bill to make it absolutely clear that embryo selection techniques such as Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis can only be used to prevent serious genetic diseases or disorders or to increase the likelihood of a successful implantation.

"While the bill prohibits the use of the technology for sex selection, it is silent on whether the technology could be used to select embryos with, for example, improved athletic performance. That's why we are proposing these amendments."

Ms Kedgley noted that UK was much tighter in its regulations around PGD. It only allows a limited number of licensed clinics to use the technology for severe and life-threatening disorders.

Ms Kedgley's amendments would also allow Parliament to look over the proposed guidelines before they take effect so that the public and their representatives would have the opportunity to scrutinise them.

"These guidelines will have major ethical dimensions yet they will be issued by a non-elected technical committee. Parliament and the public have a right to have them examined before they come into force."

ENDS

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