The House of Lords in Britain are voting today on a decision that could change the genetic future of the human population. Mitochondrial transfer is a procedure that transfers specific genes from a mother to a donor egg, meaning that mitochondrial diseases will soon be able to be avoided. Currently, many babies that are born end up dying within a few months or years due to muscle, heart or brain failures, causing devastation for their parents. With the new procedure, this can now be avoided.

Scientists at Newcastle University have been the ones to pioneer this technique, which has seen criticism from Italian politicians, who claim that the human species as a whole will be impacted as it will change the genetic material that is being passed on from one generation to the next. The procedure will enable 20,000 genes from the mother to be passed on to the donor egg. These are all genes that would determine the specific characteristics of the child, such as height and hair colour. The donor egg would provide the child with the 37 genes that are found in the mitochondria, which are like batteries that provide energy to every cell in the body. These genes are only involved in producing energy, and do not contribute to the child’s physical attributes.

However, the technique has also been criticised as being dangerous, experimental and unnecessary. There are currently ways for these diseases to be prevented through conventional egg donation, which would not risk the child’s health and is a safe and proven method. But, the conventional method does not allow for a mother to pass on any genes to her child, whereas now she would be able to be the genetic parent.