Public to be consulted over 'hybrid' embryos

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The Independent Online

The public are to be consulted over plans to create human-animal "hybrid" embryos before a final decision is made this year, the embyrology watchdog has said.

Scientists want to create the embryos for research into stem cells, but need permission from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which issues the necessary licences.

The HFEA had warned the scientists informally that it was unlikely to give permission, given that a White Paper published at the end of last year indicated the Government's disapproval of "hybrid" embryos.

However, the chief executive of the authority, Angela McNab, said yesterday: "After weighing up the scientific, legal and ethical issues, the authority decided there needs to be a full and proper public debate and consultation as to whether in principle licences for these sorts of research could be granted.

"This issue is far from black and white. There is not clear agreement within the scientific community about the need for and benefits of this science."

Scientists broadly welcomed the decision, although some expressed disappointment that it would lead to further delays in starting research that is already under way in China and other parts of the world.