Genetic manipulation of human cells & embryos should remain banned in Australia. Please ask your federal MP and senators to vote NO on the Mitochondrial Bill 2021.
Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care has recently introduced the Mitochondrial Donation Law Reform (Maeve’s Law) Bill 2021 ('the Mitochondrial Bill').
Existing laws, including the Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction Act 2002 (Cth) and the Research Involving Human Embryos Act 2002 (Cth), ban the genetic manipulation of human cells and embryos.
The Mitochondrial Bill seeks to amend this legislation and allow for the genetic manipulation of human cells and embryos. Future generations would inherit these genetic changes. According to Bob Phelps, Executive Director of Gene Ethics, "the Bill is so ethically, socially and scientifically contentious that all MPs and Senators have a personal conscience vote on the Bill".
Greg Hunt MP explains in his second reading speech is a "disease that leaves children suffering from seizures, fatigue, multiple organ failure and heart problems — in severe cases, even premature death". Mr Hunt clarifies that 'mitochondrial donation' cannot cure people with existing mitochondrial disease nor prevent mitochondrial disease caused by an individual's nuclear DNA.
I have learnt that 'mitochondrial donation' is a technically wrong term. In addition, it's a euphemism for 'genetic manipulation of human cells and embryos', which is banned under present Australian law and most other countries. To give the reader an idea of the seriousness of this legislative proposal: In 2019, He Jiankui, a Chinese scientist was jailed for 3 years in China when it was discovered he had genetically manipulated human embryos. See ‘That 'CRISPR Babies' Scientist Was Just Sentenced to Jail in China’, by Patrick Baert, AFP, Science Alert, 30 December 2019.
Australians have not been asked to approve heritable germline gene manipulation, and most countries - including Australia - ban such experiments and their clinical use. Most scientists doing stem cell research also say such research should be banned as it is too risky and would have unknown impacts on the descendants of the people genetically engineered.
This Bill will be debated in the Federal Parliament in August.
Please enter your postcode here to contact your own federal MP and state Senators, and tell them you want them all to vote NO on the Mitochondrial Bill 2021: https://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members
Beatrice Ludwig is the Principal Solicitor at Ludwig Lawyers.