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About United Kingdom Policies & Human Biotechnology


The United Kingdom's Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA), established in 1991, is often considered a model for regulating and overseeing human biotechnologies. It licenses and monitors all research involving human embryos, and all facilities offering in vitro fertilization or storage of eggs, sperm, or embryos. UK law does not permit certain activities involving human embryos.

The HFEA's 21 members are appointed by UK Health Ministers; at least half of them are required to be neither doctors nor scientists involved in human embryo research or infertility treatment.

To grant a research license, the HFEA must be satisfied that the use of human embryos is "necessary or desirable" for an enumerated purpose. The HFEA inspects licensed clinics annually; produces a Code of Practice that guides clinics on proper conduct; keeps a formal registry for donors, treatments, and children born; and conducts public consultations on controversial applications.



Designer babies: an ethical horror waiting to happen?by Philip BallThe Guardian January 8th, 2017A perfectly feasible 10-20% improvement in health via PGD, added to the comparable advantage that wealth already brings, could lead to a widening of the health gap between rich and poor, both within a society and between nations.
2016 Fear vs Hope: Gene Editing— Terrible turning point?by Pete ShanksDeccan ChronicleJanuary 1st, 2017As the tools for gene editing rapidly advance, we approach our best chance to prevent the rise of a modern, uncontrolled and dangerously ill-considered techno-eugenics.
Unexpected Risks Found In Replacing DNA To Prevent Inherited Disordersby Jill NeimarkNPRJanuary 1st, 2017Scientists are increasingly concerned that "3-person IVF" techniques may allow flawed mitochondria to resurface and threaten a child's health.
Babies made from three people approved in UKby James GallagherBBC NewsDecember 15th, 2016Some scientists have questioned the technique, saying it could open the door to genetically-modified 'designer' babies.
Comment on UK Decision to Move Ahead with “3-Person IVF”[Press statement]December 15th, 2016The decision is part of a disturbing trend toward the normalization of an experimental technology that is still widely considered unsafe, and whose implications for future generations are unknown.
Biopolitical News of 2016by Pete Shanks, Leah Lowthorp & Marcy DarnovskyBiopolitical TimesDecember 13th, 2016We highlight 2016’s trends in and top news stories about human biotech developments.
Slippery Slopes and Biological Curve Balls: Updates on 3-person IVFby Leah LowthorpBiopolitical TimesDecember 13th, 2016There have been several recent setbacks and troubling developments in 3-person IVF technology and applications.
Exclusive: Mexico clinic plans 20 ‘three-parent’ babies in 2017by Michael Le PageNew ScientistDecember 9th, 2016Mexico has no specific regulations governing mitochondrial replacement or assisted reproduction.
Setting the record straightby Martin H. JohnsonReproductive BioMedicine OnlineDecember 1st, 2016A senior editor writes about some shoddy scientific journalism on mitochondrial transfer that was published in his own journal.
Human Gene Editing: A Timeline of CRISPR Cover StoriesWith recent gene editing tools, a number of high-profile media are featuring CRISPR on their covers and front pages. We gather highlights since early 2015, along with opinion polls, TV shows, and editorial board statements.
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