There’s nothing wrong with GM

The fact that Britain is on the verge of becoming the first country in the world to permit mitochondrial donation in law should be applauded

Share

Mitochondrial diseases are thankfully rare, but that’s not much consolation for the hundreds of families whose children suffer severe and debilitating ill health as a result of inheriting defective genes from their mothers.

Mitochondrial DNA is not like the nuclear DNA of the chromosomes. It exists outside chromosomes of the nucleus and is passed down the generations through the maternal line – we all have our mothers’ mitochondrial DNA.

A technique known as mitochondrial donation, where the healthy mitochondria of a donor egg or embryo are used in IVF treatment, therefore promises to provide affected women with a way of having children who are free of the condition.

The fact that Britain is on the verge of becoming the first country in the world to permit this treatment in law should therefore be applauded as a progressive act that could enhance the lives of many families – provided the technique is shown to be safe.

However, there should be no qualms about what this involves. For the first time, we will be allowing scientists to alter the DNA of future generations, so-called germ-line modification, by bringing together the genetic material of three people into one embryo.

By any stretch of scientific definitions, this amounts to genetic modification (GM), and no amount of dissembling by the Government changes that fact. It is quite wrong, therefore, for the Department of Health to come up with a “working definition” of GM that conveniently excludes mitochondrial donation.

GM should not be the scientific term that dare not speak its name. There is nothing inherently wrong with it, just as there is nothing inherently wrong with “nuclear magnetic resonance imaging” – except that someone in officialdom decided that “nuclear” was too risqué to be included in the description of a hospital MRI scanner.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Magento Front End Web Developer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Front End Web Developer is re...

Investigo: management accountant

£250 - £300 per day: Investigo: Growing international marketing business requi...

Recruitment Genius: ORM / Online Reputational Consultant

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ORM Consultant is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Facilities Manager

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of educat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Burning vehicles are seen near the village of Ghajar on Israel's border with Lebanon January 28, 2015  

Israel vs Hezbollah: Why another war is unlikely

Maya Gebeily
Sammie Welch, 23, was given a note praising her parenting skills with Rylan, three  

Praising a stranger for looking after their child isn't kind — it's the parenting equivalent of cat-calling

Sophie Zadeh
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore