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In Vitro Fertilisation

Question for Department of Health

UIN HL3422, tabled on 4 December 2014

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answers by Earl Howe on 3 December 2013 (WA 36) and 3 December 2014 (HL3158), which were the relevant experts or international authorities with whom the Chief Medical Officer "had a lot of discussions"; which international authorities agreed with the Chief Medical Officer’s own assessment that no-one "has come up with a better definition"; how the new definition is being accordingly incorporated into the syllabus for biology students; and what are their views on the ontological propriety of the proposed redefinition of genetic modification on the basis that it "is not that that is what it is".

Answered on

18 December 2014

As stated in my Written Answer of 3 December 2014 (Official Report, Column WA270), the development of a working definition for genetic modification in humans was undertaken in order to bring clarity to the discussion around mitochondrial donation and is solely intended to be used in this context. There is no universally agreed definition of genetic modification in humans and the working definition devised for the debate on mitochondrial donation did not aim to establish one. The Chief Medical Officer was clear in her evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee on 22 October 2014 that the definition’s purpose is to clarify discussion of this issue.

With regard to the discussions that took place in developing the working definition, in developing its position the Department, in consultation with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, also had discussions with the Wellcome Trust and the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.