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Churches say NO to cow human embryos in NZ

Churches say NO to cow human embryos in New Zealand

Hybrid embryos are not acceptable in New Zealand culture says the Interchurch Bioethics Council. Below they explain why.

British Parliament recently passed legislation to approve the formation of human:cow hybrid embryos. The technique would involve taking a cow’s egg and removing the nucleus. The cell would then be implanted with a nucleus taken from an adult human cell, such as a skin cell. The resulting hybrid would then be induced to develop into an embryo.

The embryo would be allowed to divide for up to fourteen days, which is the permitted time for which a human embryo may be maintained outside the human body. During that time scientists would use the embryo to try and produce stem cells for use in medical research and, it is hoped, ultimately stem cells for applications in medicine e.g. in organ and tissue repair.

This use of human gametes and embryos in biotechnology raises significant ethical questions. In New Zealand, under the HART (Human Assisted Reproductive Technology) Act 2004, it is prohibited to create hybrid human-animal embryos for reproductive purposes or to implant a hybrid embryo into a human or an animal.

The Interchurch Bioethics Council submission on the HART Bill recommended that we prohibit the artificial formation of a human-animal hybrid embryo for any purpose, reproductive or otherwise.

The bovine egg from which a nucleus is removed still contains some mitochondrial DNA in the cytoplasm of the egg. Maori and many others believe it is spiritually, culturally and ethically wrong to mix human and non-human DNA.

Within the broad Christian tradition, we understand that each creature has its own valued and unique identity and purpose and that recombining entities can on that basis be seen as undermining the Christian understanding of creation.

From a scientific point of view, there are risks in mixing animal and human cellular material, as already recognised in the xenotransplantation debate. One such risk may be the production of stem cells from a hybrid cell containing unknown potentially infective agents including viruses, introduced by the use of the bovine cell. There is also the potential for as yet unknown hazards.

- Interchurch Bioethics Council


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