Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, c. 37

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act was passed in British Parliament in 1990 and has since become a model of the regulation of human reproductive technologies. The legislation sought to maintain the status of the human embryo reached through deliberations in the previous decade, taking into account the 1987 white paper “Human Fertilisation and Embryology: a Framework for Legislation” and the 1984 Warnock Report (see Michael Mulkay [1987] for an account of the events between the Warnock Report’s release and its enshrinement into law).

UK fertility watchdog considers laws for gene editing and lab-grown eggs

This is one of two articles published on the same day in the Guardian that suggests an emerging strategy to modify the UK’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act. Based on notable contributions from Robin Lovell-Badge, a leading figure in global discussions about the future of genome editing, this article discusses expected impending recommendations from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to update the 1990 Act.

Human Germline and Heritable Genome Editing: The Global Policy Landscape

This article in The CRISPR Journal represents an extensive survey of 106 nations regarding their policies on early-stage embryo genome editing research. It is the product of a collaboration between bioethicists at Dalhousie University and members of the Center for Genetics and Society. The authors argue that international policies about heritable genome editing were previously underreported. Their findings suggest that there is indeed some global consensus around the prohibition of heritable human genome editing.

Human Fertilisation and Embryology: a Framework for Legislation (Cm.: 259)

This report follows the recommendation of the Warnock Report (1984) in creating an independent government body to regulate and oversee assisted reproduction. In the following years, given the diversity of views on the subject, the government made a series of public consultations. By the time the consultation period ended in June 1987, the British Government reaffirmed its intention to have legislation on assisted reproduction, a task for the British parliament.

Four radical new fertility treatments just a few years away from clinics

This is one of two articles published on the same day in the Guardian that suggests an emerging strategy to modify the UK’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act. This article identifies recent developments in life science research—specifically, genome editing, synthetic embryos, mitochondrial transfer, and lab-grown gametes—and suggests that revisions to the 1990 Act would need to account for progress in these areas. The article argues that scientific progress in each of these domains necessitates “future-proofing” legislation so that these technologies can be translated into the clinic.

Constitutionalism at the Nexus of Life and Law

J. Benjamin Hurlbut, Sheila Jasanoff, and Krishanu Saha guest-edited the November 2020 issue of the journal Science, Technology, & Human Values. This essay introduces a collection of articles gathered under the theme of “law, science, and constitutions of life.” Together, they explore how revolutions in notions of what biological life is are eliciting correspondingly revolutionary imaginations of how life should be governed.

Adjudicating the GM Food Wars: Science, Risk, and Democracy in World Trade Law

This piece was originally written by four scholars, including Observatory Director Sheila Jasanoff, as an amicus curiae brief to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO was considering a legal challenge from the United States, Canada, and Argentina to the de facto moratorium on genetically modified food imports in the European Communities (EC). The challengers argued that such a moratorium was illegal on the grounds that the European Union’s actions were not based on sound science of risk assessment.