Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Memorandum 3

Submission from the Reverend Christopher Johnson


  The mixing of human and animal DNA raises serious ethical concerns. For example what proportion of the resulting hybrid or chimera needs to by human in order to be afforded the protections of human tissue and embryos? Some may argue that restricting the practice to research purposes removes these ethical objections but this ignores two significant issues.

  Firstly, if the research successfully identifies a mechanism of producing, for example, stem cells, these cell lines would continue to be produced for research purposes and potential treatments. The status of such materials as products is in my view highly questionable.

  Secondly, the regulation of research will become increasingly difficult requiring extensive testing to establish the genetic status of a given embryo. This complexity could easily become an opportunity for the current protections of the human embryo to be further diminished.

  To avoid exploitation of the potential confusion the Government should hold to a clear stand on this issue with an outright ban on all intentional transfer of fragments of human genetic material into animal cells and all mixing of human and animal DNA. All materials containing any portion of inserted human DNA should be classified and protected in at least the same way as 100% human materials. I believe that this is the only way in which abuses of the current regulations can be prevented.

January 2007

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