By Terry Vanderheyden

LONDON, July 27, 2006 ( – A UK fertility clinic has been given the green light by the country’s fertility authority to allow women undergoing in-vitro fertilization to trade costs of the treatment in exchange for any surplus eggs. The eggs are to be fertilized, and the resulting embryonic babies mined for cells to be used in research.

The decision marks the first instance where human eggs are being legallyÂsold as items of commerce.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority licensed the North East England Stem Cell Institute to exchange embryos in lieu of payment for IVF services. The Newcastle-based Institute utilizes the cells derived from embryonic humans to investigate potential stem cell treatments for conditions such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

Before now, women were allowed to voluntarily donate “spare” eggs derived from IVF treatments, although the demand has exceeded the supply, according to the Newcastle team.

Paul Tully, General Secretary for the UK’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, told today that he was “deeply concerned” over the prospect of women being paid for their “spare” eggs.

“Women will be under enormous pressure to engage in these practices,” he emphasized. “There is a huge potential for exploitation.”

Josephine Quintavalle, co-founder of Hands Off Our Ovaries, told the BBC that the needs of researchers who want more eggs for research will supersede the best interests of the women donors. “It is coercion under another name,” she said. She described the HFEAs actions as the “worst example of HFEA arrogance” she had observed.