LONDON, February 4, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – MPs voted on Tuesday to approve new regulations to allow “3-parent” genetically-engineered embryos. Critics have said that the vote brings the country one step further along the path of genetic manipulation of human beings first envisioned by the early 20th century eugenicists. Ethicists and pro-life advocates have condemned the vote as a move toward “germline alteration,” manipulation of the human genome and human cloning.
Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children and a lead voice in the fight against allowing the technique, said that the vote helps Britain retain its standing as the world’s most permissive regime for the creation, manipulation, and casual discarding of human life at the embryonic stage.
“We are the pioneers of abuses of unborn children like legalised abortion, IVF and genetic screening, and we are in danger of losing all feeling for the victims of such medicalised exploitation,” Tully said.
The drafters of the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act made no provision for allowing human cloning or germline genetic tampering, but with this vote it is now the present legal reality. Tully confirmed that cloning and embryo research advocates had pressed at that time for the inclusion of techniques to regrow organs using embryonic stem cells.
“On that occasion MPs were again misled with false claims about how regenerative medicine could not advance without cannibalising embryos for their embryonic stem cells (ESCs).” But the promised results of using embryo cells have not materialised, and little is now heard of the techniques. Instead, Tully said, “ethical techniques using stem-cells from adults have proved successful.”
Tully told LifeSiteNews that there has certainly been a cynical use of the “hard cases” technique of “plucking at the heartstrings” of public sympathy for mitochondrial illness that is currently incurable. This, he said, has been a “repeated tactic of those who want to legitimise the use of embryos for scientific purposes. However, this has repeatedly been shown to be based on false promises.”
The researchers’ real interest, he said, is one they are not likely to admit to either the media or Parliamentary committees, namely developing a new cloning technique.
“Until now they’ve had to destroy cloned embryos. But this regulation allows them to move a step closer towards engaging in full scale human cloning. That seems to be the objective they really want to pursue. People with mitochondrial disease are a convenient front to put forward that other goal.”
Nevertheless, the research community is forging ahead. Dr. Peter Saunders, the head of the Christian Medical Fellowship, pointed to the heavy lobbying from the research community eager to move forward into new areas of experimentation that are allowed nowhere else. He wrote that the proposal was backed by a section of the international scientific community, creating “huge pressure for MPs who risk being labelled ‘ignorant’ or uncaring for objecting.”
“This new push is being driven as much by prestige for government, research grants for scientists and profits for biotechnology company shareholders as anything else.”
“The research scientists involved have huge financial, ideological and research-based vested interests and getting the regulatory changes and research grants to continue and extend their work is dependent on them being able to sell their case to funders, the public and decision-makers,” Saunders writes.
“Hence their desire for attention-grabbing media headlines and heart rending (but highly extreme and unusual) human interest stories that are often selective about what facts they present.”
The technique in the new regulations is being advertised in the media as a means of helping clients at IVF facilities avoid creating a child that carries inherited genetic illnesses passed on by the mother’s mitochondrial DNA (mDNA). It involves inserting mDNA from a third-party donor into the existing embryo, but these would create genetic changes that would be carried down the line when that child is born, grows up, and has children of her own.
This is called “germline” alteration, a major goal of the new eugenics movement, which aims to improve the human race not by selective breeding, but by deliberate first-hand genetic alteration.
Saunders also cited “brazen” manipulation from the Department of Health to promote the regulations, “claiming widespread public support for the measure – despite its own consultation showing a majority (62%) actually oppose the plans.” He cites an August 2014 ComRes poll that showed only 18 percent of the public approve the “creation of three-parent children through genetic modification.”
Transferring mitochondrial DNA into the cytoplasm of an embryo is regarded by the scientific community as a form of human cloning, though it is rarely forthrightly identified as such in the media. Dr. Dianne Irving, a biochemist and bioethicist from the US, has warned for years that cloning will be brought into common practice in labs and acceptance among the public, simply by changing what it is called and how it is described in the media.
In the case of mitochondrial transfer, Irving has pointed to exactly the kind of rebranding that has driven the new regulations in the UK as a form of conscious, deliberate manipulation of language. In 2002, when she was writing against the passage of the Canadian embryo research bill, Dr. Irving’s warnings that exactly these techniques of genetic germline manipulation were on their way were largely dismissed as alarmism by Canadian MPs.
In the 2011 article “Personhood language,” Irving wrote, “As those who have been following these and related issues are becoming aware, the erroneous ‘scientific’ definitions used as legal loopholes in legislation and regulations concerning the beginning of life issues can also be transferred to issues at the end of life – and have been. This phenomenon appears to be increasing.”
Peter Saunders adds that the technique has been condemned widely by ethicists and scientists who warn that there is no way to predict the long-term outcome for the children created, for their offspring and future generations down the line. The techniques, he says, involve “experimental reproductive cloning techniques (cell nuclear transfer) and germline genetic engineering, both highly controversial and potentially very dangerous.”
“Also, any changes, or unpredicted genetic problems (mutations) will be passed to future generations. In general, the more manipulation needed, the higher the severity and frequency of problems in resulting embryos and fetuses.”