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Changes Made To HART Bill A Sham

HART bill changes "a sham response" to public concern over Human GE

Changes to the government bill attempting to fully legalise the genetic engineering of human babies have been made as a result of submissions against this and other eugenic technologies in the Human Assisted Reproductive Technology (HART) bill. However, the revised bill is a sham and fails to protect human values into the future or respond to community concerns.

"Unfortunately, it looks like they have only delayed part of their plans for a genetically engineered eugenic future" said Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment. "The approval of in-vitro experimentation on human-animal hybrids actually opens the door for a 'Brave New World' that we believe goes against the values of the vast majority of New Zealanders. We are demanding further change before this Bill is passed."

Analysis of the revised HART bill shows that it will only prohibit the implantation of genetically engineered human embryos in a woman’s womb, but not in-vitro experimentation.

In what is appears to be a world-first for any government, our politicians are set to proactively legalise the genetic engineering of human sperm, eggs and human embryos for research purposes. This can even include the genetic engineering of animal genes into human embryos and vice versa to create hybrid animal-human embryos. Human cloning is also to be allowed for research.

This policy is being set without any consideration of a new report due from the Bio Ethics Council into public attitudes to human genes in other organisms. This report is be presented to Marian Hobbs on 26 August at a show-case event in Wellington designed to signal the government is "listening to the public".

"Clearly, the government are not listening to the depth of public concern and are sidelining the Bio Ethics Council report to push on with their particular agenda. They are laying the foundations for a future where some humans will be able to not just choose their babies genetic inheritance through pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), but also genetically engineer or clone their offspring" says Mr Carapiet.

The lessons must be learnt from the debate around the legalisation of In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) technology in the 1970’s. Critics at the time pointed out that it would lead to a future of designer babies, which was something denied by IVF supporters. History has proven critics right and IVF supporters have actively and continually mislead the NZ public on this issue.

HART will allow the world's most deregulated environment for the use of PGD as the law fails to set fundamental limits on what can or cannot be genetically selected for by parents wanting to choose a particular type of baby.

Attempts by the IVF industry and its political supporters to deny that HART will not eventually lead to the genetic engineering of human babies cannot be believed given the history of this industry's misleading denials over IVF never being used with PGD for designer babies.

Clear legislation banning such activities is the only reasonable course of action and the HART bill must be amended.

The public can have little confidence in the HART framework of an advisory and ethics committee setting the boundaries on the uses of human assisted reproductive technology. This approach avoids the real democratic issue of why politicians have not fronted up in public to say what they are actually going to legalise.

There is a worrying lack of media and academic analysis of this far-reaching legislation to help inform the public of the moral, ethical and spiritual issues so critical to the future. Parliament has no mandate to pass such a far reaching eugenic law that touches upon the very meaning of what it means to be human without the informed consent of the general public.

GE Free NZ in food and environment recognise that there have been some improvements in this version of HART with mandatory genetic testing having been dropped, and sex selection limited to cases where it is used to avoid a serious genetic disorder. However, the reality is it puts in place a eugenic framework starting with PGD for designer babies.

For the first time in New Zealand history a committee will draw up a list of types of human beings who can be targeted for elimination and prevented from ever existing again in our society. By allowing research into the genetic engineering and cloning of human embryos, the path is being set for legalisation at a later date once these techniques have been perfected, just as is about to happen with PGD.

"We are making a public call for Parliamentarians not to allow this eugenic future to happen," says Mr Carapiet. "The HART bill must be further amended so that unethical PGD, sex selection and all forms of human genetic engineering and cloning -whether for implantation or research purposes- are permanently prohibited."

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