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The human embryo is one of us from the moment of conception and as such is worthy of absolute respect.
We urge your Government and all worldwide to reject outright any attempts to authorize in any form whatsoever germline genetic modification of the human embryo, but specifically in this instance the proposals in the United Kingdom to create 3-parent embryos.
Highly controversial proposals currently before the United Kingdom’s Parliament would permit combining in-vitro germline genetic material from two maternal sources in order to create a new kind of human embryo.
It is argued by proponents that creating genetically modified babies would be a solution to the occurrence of a disease transmitted in the mitochondria of an affected woman.
Opposition to these proposals has come from across the world from both secular and faith-based organizations and we urge you to read the following explanation as to why these proposals must be universally prohibited.
- None of the proposed techniques represents a cure for mitochondrial disease which will continue to appear randomly at birth. These techniques would only be applied to families already identified as being at risk of conceiving a baby with mitochondrial disease.
- The current proposals represent in no way whatsoever attempts to cure the condition in existing babies, but rather involve the creation of a completely new kind of human embryo whose genetic composition would be determined by using material from two maternal progenitor sources.
- The woman donating the healthy mitochondria would provide identifiable genetic material – no matter how minimal – to the embryo produced and the offspring would (at least in the case of one technique) have three biological parents.
- The proposed techniques are unequivocally germline genetic modification (unlike post-natal therapies such as blood or organ donation) and as such, changes made would be passed on to future generations with completely unknown consequences.
- At least one technique is in effect a cloning technique, thereby opening the door to full reproductive cloning, which is universally prohibited.
- Serious safety issues associated with the mitochondrial transfer and modification of the mammalian egg have already been identified in published studies. The last time one of the techniques was tried in humans, it resulted in an abortion and two stillbirths.
- Animal experiments in this field have shown decreased survival, inhibited growth and other horrifying abnormalities.
- A further consideration is harm to the women used as egg donors, as the procedure requires aggressive ovarian stimulation, which can lead amongst other complications to ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome which can be fatal.
- Modification of human eggs or early embryos for procreation using heritable interventions is widely prohibited in such international declarations and conventions as:
- The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights which indicates in Article 24 that ‘germ-line interventions’ could be considered as practices which are ‘contrary to human dignity”.
- The Council of Europe’s Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine which indicates in Article 13 that “an intervention seeking to modify the human genome may only be undertaken for preventive, diagnostic or therapeutic purposes and only if its aim is not to introduce any modification in the genome of any descendants”.
- The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union which indicates in Article 3 that “In the fields of medicine and biology (…) the prohibition of eugenic practices, in particular those aiming at the selection of persons, must be respected”