The spectre of genetically modified babies has inched ever closer with the arrival of a new consultation asking for the public’s views on three-parent embryos.
The creation of babies using genetic material from thee parents is currently illegal, but the controversial technique could become law as early as next year.
Critics argue that it would be wrong to play around with “the building blocks” of human life.
But supporters say that allowing three parent babies could eliminate mitochondrial disease, a genetic condition passed from mother to child.
The consultation, by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), is focusing on the ethical implications of the practice.
Josephine Quintavalle, of the Comment on Reproductive Ethics campaign group, said: “This is not about curing disease in an existing human being, it is creating a new kind of embryo and the alterations you have made will pass on to future generations.
“You are playing around with the building blocks and restructuring how human life is created.”
And Dr David King, director of Human Genetics Alert, said: “That it is even being considered is a reflection of medical consumerism and scientists’ fetish for employing the most hi-tech methods.”
Professor Lisa Jardine, Chair of the HFEA, said: “The Government has asked us to take the public temperature on this important and emotive issue.
“The decision about whether mitochondria replacement should be made available to treat patients is not only an issue of great importance to families affected by these terrible diseases, but is also one of enormous public interest.”
The consultation will close on Friday 7 December with the conclusions due to be presented to ministers in the spring.