Politicians denounce three-parent embryos as "eugenic"

Michael Cook
12 Oct 2013
Reproduced with Permission

Opponents of the UK's plans to legalise "three-parent embryos" have not given up. A group of 34 European politicians from the Council of Europe, including eight British MPs and peers, have signed a declaration denouncing the idea as "eugenic".

The new IVF technique is being sold as a way of curing serious mitochondrial disease. There are two techniques, but they both involve uniting sperm, the nucleus of one woman's egg, and a denucleated egg with healthy mitochondria from a second woman. The resulting child would carry genetic material from three people.

The CE group cites several major international agreements which they believe should rule out "mitochondrial transfer".

UNESCO's Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights indicates that "germ-line interventions could be considered as practices which are 'contrary to human dignity". And the Council of Europe's Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine states that "an intervention seeking to modify the human genome may only be undertaken for preventive, diagnostic or therapeutic purposes and only if its aim is not to introduce any modification in the genome of any descendants".

Supporters of the technique contend that it has broad public support and will help couples not to have handicapped children. A spokesman for the Wellcome Trust, a major funder of the technique, that that it would "give affected families the chance to have children free from devastating disorders who can grow up to have healthy children of their own, something most of us take for granted".

The "written declaration" does not bind the Council of Europe, which has 318 representatives. However, it could put it on the CE's agenda for a debate.