Embryology Bill: 'we have crossed a dangerous threshold'

 MPs voted to allow medical research on hybrid human-animal embryos last night, in the first of a series of votes on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill aimed at updating laws from 1990 in line with scientific advances. They also voted to allow 'saviour siblings'. Tory MP Edward Leigh's attempt to outlaw the creation of hybrid human-animal embryos was voted down by 336 votes to 176. Catholic cabinet ministers Ruth Kelly, Des Browne and Paul Murphy were among those who voted for a ban. Prime Minister Gordon Brown opposed it. Mr Leigh, who led the fight against the creation of hybrid embryos, said it was "ethically wrong and almost certainly medically useless". He said there was "no evidence yet to substantiate" claims the work could lead to treatment for degenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. On the other hand he pointed out that research using adult stem cells had already shown great promise. The bill would allow regulated research using hybrid or "admix" embryos, where the nuclei of human cells are inserted into animal eggs. The resulting embryos would be kept for up to 14 days to harvest stem cells. Health Minister Dawn Primarolo says any research done using human embryos "must satisfy the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority that it was necessary or desirable". No human "admix" embryo would be implanted into a woman or animal, she said. But Mr Leigh said: "We do not believe that regulation is enough. We believe this is a step too far. We have crossed a dangerous threshold.... In embryos, we do have the genetic make up of a complete human being and we could not and should not be spliced together with the animal kingdom." The former Labour minister Sir Gerald Kaufman, agreed, adding: "How far do you go? Where do you stop? What are the limits and what are the boundaries? If you permit the creation of hybrid embryos now, what will you seek to permit next time, even if you have no idea where it will lead?" At about 10.30 last night, MPs voted against a bill will would have banned the creation of 'saviour siblings - babies born from embryos selected because they are a tissue match for a sick older brother or sister with a genetic condition. Later today, the government will be voting on the role of fathers in IVF treatments. A proposal would end the requirement for IVF clinics to consider the "welfare" of any child created in terms of need for a father. The bill proposes allowing IVF to couples of either sex who can provide 'good parenting' to a child. Critics have voiced concerns , that children need parents of both sexes. They also point out that children should be able to find the identity of their genetic fathers, to avoid incest. Later today there will also be a vote on the proposed lowering of the abortion time limit from the current 24 weeks - one of the highest in Europe. In France, Span and Germany the limit is 12 weeks. the limit is 12 weeks. In Italy it is 13 weeks. In Holland there is no time limit. Sources: agencies/BBC

Share this story