Research on embryos

Updated on 21.01.14

France prohibits the creation of human embryos for research purposes, the use of transgenic or chimeric embryos, and the creation or use of embryos for industrial or commercial purposes.

Research on Human Embryos is authorised, under certain conditions, by the French bioethics law implemented on July 7th 2011 and amended on August 6th 2013.

The conditions for granting authorisation for research were modified in 2011. It can now be granted if :

  • The scientific importance of the research project is established.
  • The research is likely to lead to a major medical breakthrough.
  • It is expressly established that the result hoped for cannot be achieved by means of research not employing human embryos, human embryonic stem cells or stem cell lines.
  • The research project and the conditions of implementing the protocol respect all the ethical principles on research on embryos and human embryonic stem cells.
  • The research is carried out on surplus embryos conceived in vitro in the context of medically assisted procreation and for which there is no longer a parental project, on embryos whose quality is judged inadequate for transfer to the uterus, or on embryos bearing an anomaly being screened for in the context of preimplantation genetic diagnosis.
  • Under all circumstance, the consent of the couples who conceived the embryos must be obtained.

France also authorises the import and export of human embryonic stem cells taken from human embryos in vitro which have been conceived in the context of medically assisted procreation and for which there is no longer a parental project. Import and export are authorised by the Agence de la biomédecine. The collection of the cells must have been carried out with respect for basic ethical principles (the principles of the primacy of the human being and of the prohibition of any violation of human dignity, of the inviolability of the human body, of the person’s consent, of the prohibition of any violation of the integrity of the human species, of non-ownership of the human body and the gratuity of donation, of the prohibition of surrogate motherhood, of the respect of anonymity, etc.).

On 13 December 2011, France ratified the Council of Europe Oviedo Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine. The convention stipulates that where research on embryos in vitro is allowed, adequate protection of the embryo must be ensured. It also prohibits the creation of embryos for research purposes.