A Free Church of Scotland professor has described recent calls on Westminster to legalise research on GM human embryos, as promoting a “form of eugenics”.

The Hinxton Group website made the calls. The group describes itself as an international consortium on stem, cells, ethics and the law.

A report from the group said genetic modification of human embryos should be permitted, but only in controlled circumstances.

Loading article content

But Professor Donald MacDonald, who was a surgeon before entering the ministry and becoming Professor of Practical

Theology at the Free Church College, said this was extremely worrying. He said described what was being proposed as a “form of eugenics”. (Eugenics has been the highly controversial study of or belief in the possibility of improving the qualities of the human species, by discouraging reproduction those with genetic defects.)

Professor MacDonald, now retired, said “At the moment no country in the world allows the creation of such genetically modified embryos which would pass the changes on to the next generation. The USA federal government does not finance research on genetic modification of human embryos.

“While the aim of eradicating genetically determined diseases seems attractive at first sight, there are several reasons for opposing this research in embryos. For instance the embryos are obtained during IVF treatment and are excess to requirements. This would be to use early human beings as a means to an end. They would be experimented upon and then destroyed. And once the technique is mastered it would be very difficult to resist pressure to allow attempts to implant an altered embryo and produce a ‘disease free’ individual."