HFEA / HGAC welcome Government response to human cloning report

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and the Human Genetics Advisory Commission (HGAC) today welcomed the Government's response to their report ´Cloning issues in reproduction, science and medicine'. Baroness Onora O'Neill, the HGAC's chairman, said:

"After much consideration, we concluded that there are no circumstances in which the reproductive cloning of human beings would be acceptable. I am pleased that the Government shares that view, and that it agrees that the law is more than adequate to prevent such cloning in the UK."

Mrs Ruth Deech, Chairman of the HFEA, said:

"The Government has shown its confidence in the HFEA's ability to regulate this fast moving area.

"In December we recommended that the potential benefits of cell nucleus replacement technology (CNR) in embryo research should not be ruled out. Ministers are to be congratulated on their decision to consider this issue further, and we look forward to helping with their deliberations. CNR technology might b.e helpful for research into, and treatment of, a range of serious conditions, including Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and various types of cancer. Such applications are still some years away and there is time for full public debate about these new technologies."


Notes to editors

The joint HGAC/HFEA report, 'Cloning Issues in Reproduction, Science and Medicine', can be found on the HGAC's website.

The report concluded that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 has proved effective in dealing with new developments relating to human cloning. It recommended that:

  • these safeguards be recognised as wholly adequate to forbid human reproductive cloning in the UK. However, it suggested that the Government might wish to consider the possibility of introducing legislation that would explicitly ban human reproductive cloning regardless of the technique used, so that the full ban would not depend upon the decision of a statutory body (the HFEA) but would itself be enshrined in statute;
  • that the Secretary of State for Health should consider specifying in regulations two further purposes for which the HFEA might issue licences for research, so that potential benefits can clearly be explored. Firstly, the development of methods of therapy for mitochondrial disease and secondly the development of therapeutic treatments for diseased or damaged tissues or organs; and
  • recognising the pace of scientific advances in the area of human genetics, the issues are examined again in five years time in the light of developments and public attitudes towards them.

The HGAC was established in December 1996 as a non-statutory advisory body. It   provides independent advice to UK Health and Industry Ministers on issues arising from   developments in human genetics that have social, ethical and/or economic consequences.

The HFEA took up its powers as a statutory authority in August 1991 as a result of the passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 (HFE Act). Its principal tasks are to license and monitor clinics that carry out in vitro fertilisation, donor   insemination and human embryo research. The HFEA regulates the storage of gametes and embryos and keeps a register of all licensed treatments carried out in the UK. It also   keeps under review information about the development of human embryos and the provision of treatment services and activities governed by the HFE Act.

The joint report "Cloning Issues in Reproduction, Science and Medicine" analysed   responses to a consultation exercise held in 1998, and discussed recent scientific advances which shed more light on the potential for the technology. The analysis showed that reproductive cloning - producing whole human copies, already outlawed in the UK - had little support.

The consultation took place between January and April 1998. Over 1,000 copies of the   document were issued and it was also accessed from HGAC's website. Nearly 200   responses were received - about 40% from individual members of the public and the rest from a wide range of constituencies, including professional bodies, religious   organisations and lay groups, many of whom had organised their own discussion groups or otherwise canvassed views.

For furthur information please contact the HFEA press office.

Page last updated: 13 March 2009

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