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pappagooch

UK moves to ban human sex selection

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The UK has moved towards banning parents from choosing the sex of their children for social reasons, following a report from the independent body that advises the government.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) recommends that it be given the power to regulate the use of sperm sorting for sex selection and that sex selection should only be used when an embryo is at risk of a serious sex-linked disorder. The HFEA published its report on Wednesday, following a year-long public consultation.

The authority currently regulates all fertility procedures in the UK involving frozen or stored sperm or embryos. However, the use of fresh sperm does not fall under its auspices. UK clinics could therefore sort the sex of sperm for purely social reasons.

Sperm sorting should only be used to avoid having children with serious disorders, says Alison Cook, a spokeswoman for the HFEA. The HFEA chair, Suzi Leather, says: "We are not persuaded that the likely benefits of permitting sex selection for social reasons are strong enough to outweigh the possible harm that might be done."

Stained sperm

The HFEA's decision was based on both the potential health dangers of selecting sperm by the available methods and social concerns, Cook told New Scientist.

The method currently used to sort sperm in the UK is called "gradient sorting", but there is "huge controversy" around its effectiveness, says Cook.

A much more reliable method is flow cytometry. This involves adding a fluorescent dye to a sperm sample which stains genetic material. Because sperm carrying an X-chromosome have more DNA than Y-bearing sperm, they attract more dye. The sperm can then be automatically using a laser.

This technique, offered as MicroSort by the Genetics and IVF Institute in Fairfax, Virginia, is currently undergoing a clinical trial for the US Food and Drug Administration. "Until the FDA has finished, we won't know what the harm is of putting a dye into the genetic material," says Cook. "You would need long term follow-up studies."

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I think the decision to choose the sex of your unborn child should be banned. Can you imagine the problems that would cause? Plus, it's just plain stupid. As if this world is not fake enough ... let's choose the sex of our kids now too.

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