The British government's chief science adviser yesterday backed controversial plans to create embryos that are part-human, part-animal, in defiance of ministers who want to outlaw the research.
Sir David King said work on the embryos should be allowed under tight regulations, adding that it was crucial for scientists to gain the public's trust and support for the research to avoid a GM food-style backlash. His position leaves the government isolated over proposals to ban experiments many scientists claim could lead to lifesaving stem cell therapies.
Government plans to outlaw the research were announced in December by the public health minister, Caroline Flint, in a white paper that will underpin a broad revision of fertility laws. The Department of Health cited a public consultation in which many respondents were against the creation of the hybrid embryos.
But speaking at a public seminar organised by the Commons science and technology committee, Sir David said the government's fertility regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, should be allowed to issue licences for the research if it met its criteria for being necessary and desirable.