STRASSBOURG, October 28, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A group of thirty-four Members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), have written a strongly worded letter to the British government calling for a halt to the creation of so-called “three-parent” embryos in IVF labs.
The members called the practice of “germ-line” genetic tampering with embryos, so that the changes are passed on through the generations, incompatible with human dignity and international law, labeling it a “eugenic practice.”
They quoted Article 24 of the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights, that warned that “germ-line interventions could be considered as practices which are ‘contrary to human dignity.’” The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is a non-juridical body made up of 47 member countries.
The “three-parent” technique involves inserting DNA from a third party into embryos created in the lab in an effort to avoid passing on mitochondrial diseases. It was given the go-ahead in March this year by the UK’ Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, (HFEA) one of the most permissive regulatory agencies in the world.
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In a report to the government, following a “public consultation,” the HFEA had said that the technique should only be used to avoid “serious diseases” caused by genetic abnormalities, and that clinics offering it must be licensed. The report recommended that the children created using this genetic alteration technique be monitored.
In 2005, the HFEA allowed an experiment in which embryos were created from the combined ova of two women with the sperm from a single father, also in an attempt to treat mitochondrial genetic diseases.
In their letter, PACE members quoted an “explanatory report” on the issue, that said, “Interventions seeking to introduce any modification in the genome of any descendants are prohibited. Consequently, in particular genetic modifications of spermatozoa or ova for fertilisation are not allowed.”
The letter also quoted the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union that said, “In the fields of medicine and biology (…) the prohibition of eugenic practices, in particular those aiming at the selection of persons, must be respected.”
Founded after the revelations of the eugenic practices of the Nazi regime after World War II, one of the stated purposes of the Council of Europe is to “uphold human rights and ethical standards” in medical practice and scientific research in the member states. It does not have the same authority as the European Union, but is influential in an advisory capacity.
Dr. Marcy Darnovsky of the Center for Genetics and Society, commented that the determination of the HFEA to allow the genetic modification of human test subjects “would be clinically, ethically and socially dangerous, and would be a breach of international norms”. In an open letter to the PACE president, Dr. Darnovsky, an American researcher and author who writes on the politics of human biotechnologies, said that such “biologically extreme procedures are inherently unsafe for women undergoing them and for any children who might be born as a result, and that safer alternatives are available for the very few women who would be candidates for their use”.