British members of Parliament passed a bill Tuesday to allow scientists to take DNA from three people to create a baby, making the U.K. the first country to legalize the controversial technique.
The practice is intended to be used to stop the transfer of genetic diseases from mothers to their children, BBC News reports — but has raised ethical questions about tampering with DNA.
In the United Kingdom, the scientific community sees the 3-people DNA technique as a breakthrough procedure, but some religious leaders and some ethics groups were opposed to the parliamentary bill.
Catholic and Anglican Church leaders don’t like that the technique—a form of in vitro fertilization—calls for the fertilization of two embryos but the destruction of the third. Others worry the practice could lead to the creation of designer babies whose eye color, height, or intelligence can be tailored to the parent’s wishes.
But scientists argue this procedure wouldn’t open the door to designer babies, as the technique uses less than 0.1% of the donor parent’s DNA — not enough to change aesthetics, but just enough to save a child from a genetic disease. The technique could help an estimated 150 families a year, experts say.