Netherlands gives green light to grow human embryos for research!

On May 27, 2016 the Dutch Health Ministry announced that it wants to allow growing human embryos “under strict and limited conditions and for specific scientific research”, related to infertility, artificial reproduction techniques and hereditary or congenital diseases.

In a press release, the Dutch Health Minister, Edith Schippers indicated her desire for the law to be changed “to give people the possibility of having (healthy) children”.

Currently, research can only be conducted on “leftover” embryos conceived using in-vitro fertilization (IVF), with the consent of donors who do not wish to have those embryos implanted. Researchers claim to be hampered by this limitation, and request the right to cultivate embryos for research purposes.

This decision makes the Netherlands one of the first countries in the world to authorize cultivating in-vitro embryos for research purposes. This authorization opens up the possibility of using on these embryos genetic engineering techniques such as CRISPR-Cas9.

According to Tugdual Derville, General Delegate for Alliance VITA and supporter of the Stop GM Babies petition,

« Such a decision is worrisome and consistent with the relativism which prevails in the Netherlands. This modification in Dutch law would lead to the commodification both of the embryo, which becomes a mere material for research, and of the gamete donors. In addition, the attractive promise of a healthy child conceals a form of eugenics… Is it yet another step down the path towards the prospect of genetically programmed children? In any event it constitutes a serious reason for sounding a bioethical warning, and it justifies our demand “Stop GM Babies” for an international moratorium on the use of CRISPR-Cas9 on gametes and embryos.”