By Hilary White

  LONDON, February 27, 2007 ( – The British government’s plans to ban the creation of human/animal hybrid embryos are over after a group of 45 scientists, ethicists and politicians published an open letter in January saying that a ban would hold back the advancement of British science.

  The Times reports that the government is now dropping plans to ban the experiments and will instead offer funding for a public debate before new legislation is drafted.

  The open letter, published in the Times in response to the government’s December 2006 announcement that it planned to draft legislation to ban hybrids, was signed by academic ethicists, members of the House of Lords Select Committee on Stem Cell Research, the head of a biotechnology company and a number of scientists awaiting permission to carry out the research.

  The letter said the research was necessary for improving the efficiency of therapeutic cloning techniques and that the Parliamentary committee had “concluded after a long inquiry that such research was ethically acceptable” and ought to be regulated by the existing agency.

  The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has already received several requests from researchers to begin experiments with hybrids, including one from Dr. Ian Wilmut, the creator of Dolly the cloned sheep and one of the signatories of the Times letter. 

  Britain is regarded by many scientists and ethicists as having the most permissive national regulatory agency in the world. In recent years, the HFEA has allowed the creation of genetically modified “designer” babies to be used as tissue farms for sick siblings; the creation of cloned human embryos for stem cell experiments and the eugenic selection and destruction of “defective” human embryos in IVF treatments.

  Read related coverage:
  UK Parliamentary Report Recommends Animal-Human Hybrids, Sex Selection and More

  Creator of Dolly Granted License to Clone Humans For Experimentation

  English Scientists Ask Permission to Create Human/Cow Clones

  UK Cloning Doctor Wants to Create Human/Rabbit Hybrid Clones