C of E: Legalising GM babies would be ‘irresponsible’

The Church of England has spoken out against plans to legalise techniques to create three and four-parent babies, ahead of a House of Commons vote on the issue next week.

Revd Dr Brendan McCarthy, the national adviser on medical ethics for the C of E, said that without further information on the safety and ethics of the procedures, it would be irresponsible to allow them.

On Tuesday MPs are expected to have a free vote on the controversial techniques, also known as mitochondrial donation, which the Government is endorsing.

Insufficient scientific study

One of the procedures replaces the nucleus in a healthy donor egg with the nuclear DNA from the prospective mother, creating a child with genetic material from two mothers and one father.

Revd Brendan McCarthy commented: “The Archbishops’ Council, which monitors this issue, does not feel that there has been sufficient scientific study or informed consultation into the ethics, safety and efficacy of mitochondria transfer.

“Without a clearer picture of the role mitochondria play in the transfer of hereditary characteristics, the Church does not feel it would be responsible to change the law at this time”, he added.

Genetic engineering

According to The Daily Telegraph, Conservative MP Fiona Bruce is expected to call for the vote to be postponed until there is more evidence about the techniques.

She has warned that the procedures are essentially “genetic engineering”.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Mitochondrial Donation) Regulations 2015 could come into force in October this year if Parliament approves them.

Ethics and safety

If legalised, the UK would become the only country in the world to permit the two techniques.

The New Scientist magazine changed its stance on three-parent babies last autumn, warning that the UK needs to have a “serious debate” about the ethics and safety of three-parent babies.

The magazine previously dismissed ethical concerns, but said now it appears “we may have seriously underestimated the influence that mitochondria have”.