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Chimera bill: consultation begins

Select Committee wants evidence

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The new joint committee on the draft Human Tissue and Embryos Bill has issued a call for evidence as it starts its analysis of the proposed legislation.

The committee has specifically asked for views on the proposed new Regulatory Authority for Tissue and Embryos and whether this is the best way to oversee the new area of research. It also wants expert advice on the definitions of embryo, gamete, nucleus, and egg.

It also specifically addresses the area most likely to stir up high emotions, even within the context of this being an extremely controversial piece of legislation, inter-species embryos. It asks, very broadly: "How should the bill deal with licensing research on inter-species embryos?"

In its current form, the bill paves the way for the creation of embryos composed of 99.9 per cent human, 0.1 per cent animal DNA. It prohibits "true" animal human hybrids, but allows for so called chimeras and cytoplasmic hybrid embryos.

Another hot-button issue, sex selection of embryos, is also part of the bill.

Phil Willis MP, chairman of the joint committee, said: "It is vital this bill is taken forward in the correct way to ensure Britain continues to be a world leader in medical research. We expect to get a good range of evidence on this bill."

He added that the committee would report to both Houses in late July, with a final report due in early August. ®

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