The HFEA’s public consultation on animal DNA and embryonic research: Hybrids and mitochondrial replacement
The UK’s HFEA was established in 1990 to license and monitor in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and insemination clinics throughout the country, as well as institutions conducting embryonic research and the storage of gametes and embryos (Jasanoff, 2005). In 2007, HFEA launched a public consultation to explore the public’s views on whether or not scientists should be allowed to create embryos containing animal DNA in embryo research (HFEA 2007; Blackburn-Starza, 2007). The programme, entitled Hybrids and Chimeras, involved a public consultation to facilitate engagement about the issue, and was supported by Sciencewise, a programme run by the Office of Science and Innovation which aims to assist policy makers in conducting public engagement activities.
The consultation ran from April to July of 2007, and involved a range of approaches to consultation. A public opinion poll sought to gather the views of a representative sample of the public in a general fashion. Public deliberations expanded upon these general findings and opened up new questions, focusing on the effect that deliberation and new information had on participants’ views. A written consultation and a public meeting also took place. The results of the public consultation were analysed as evidence by the HFEA, which then decided that cytoplasmic hybrid research should be allowed to move forward, with caution and careful scrutiny (HFEA, 2007).
More recently, the HFEA gathered the public views and made a proposal to Parliament on whether to allow mitochondrial replacement in embryos intended for implantation. Parliament accepted the recommendation, with high public approval.