Genetic Modification

House of Lords written question – answered on 4th March 2014.

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Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answers by Earl Howe on 22 January (WA 129) and 6 February (WA 77), whether they consider that an egg or embryo with healthy mitochondria that has had its own nuclear DNA removed and entirely replaced by nuclear DNA from a different egg or embryo is genetically modified as a consequence.

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

As the noble Lord is aware from Viscount Younger of Leckie's Written Answer of 12 November 2013 (Official Report, columns. 113-114) there is no universally agreed definition of “genetic modification”. For example, people who have organ transplants, blood donations or even gene therapy are not generally regarded as being “genetically modified”.

While there is no universally agreed definition of genetic modification in humans, the Government has decided to adopt a working definition for the purpose of taking forward the draft mitochondrial donation regulations. The working definition that we have adopted is that genetic modification involves the germ-line modification of nuclear DNA (in the chromosomes) that can be passed on to future generations. We will keep this under review.

On the basis of that working definition, the proposed mitochondrial donation techniques do not constitute genetic modification.

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