PLANS TO LEGALISE three-parent babies have been challenged by a senior lawyer who is a peer in the House of Lords.

The Government wants to allow a baby to be created by ‘mitochondrial donation’. This would involve combining different parts of eggs from two women with a man’s sperm in such a way that mutations are not passed on to babies. 

But ethical campaigners including the Christian Institute, say that by giving a baby genes from two women and one man it would both genetically modify the child and open the door to ‘designer’ babies in general.

Now international law expert Lord Brennan has said that the proposed new regulations to allow mitochondrial donation would either be illegal or unnecessary under the terms of the existing Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Act.

The issue has also been complicated by the Government’s attempts to change what altered DNA means. Lord Brennan said: “The Department of Health’s ministers have now told Parliament on several occasions that they do not consider mitochondrial donation to alter the DNA of either an egg or embryo.

“The problem with this suggestion is that, if it is correct, there would be no need for these new regulations at all, because mitochondrial donation would be allowed under the Act itself.  Thus either these regulations are ultra vires [invalid] or they are unnecessary.”

It is probable that the legislation will be debated in Parliament in early February.

The Christian Institute released a briefing paper to show that whereas GM foods are being resisted until there can be long-term testing of the consequences, there are no such plans to monitor the potentially permanent ‘GM’ effects on generations of children. Campaigners also claim there are alternative means of preventing the passing on of mitochondrial disease which do not involve creating and disposing of embryos in a laboratory.

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