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Customs new rules to allow import of frozen embryos
February, 21st 2014

Resolution of this issue will reduce delays for couples seeking to undergo IVF procedure.
The import of human embryos for artificial reproduction will no longer require special permission, according to the Customs department.

This was announced recently in notifications by the Central Board of Excise and Customs and the Directorate General of Foreign Trade that clears some grey areas in the rules.

It resolves a long-pending issue that caused delay in assisting childless couples.

The Customs note deals with the classification and import of human embryos that were frozen in liquid nitrogen. They will now be allowed to be classified in the category of animal embryos under the Customs Tariff Act, 1975.

"It is a good step which will help people coming from abroad for surrogacy or to undergo treatment for infertility. Many couples want their own human embryos to be implanted in a surrogate," said Dr Anjali Malpani, an IVF expert who operates a clinic.

City doctors involved in the artificial reproduction procedure (medically known as in vitro fertilisation) had sought clarity on the matter after the Customs seized some containers with frozen human embryos at the Mumbai airport a few years ago.

The Customs insisted that there was no provision in their manual for such imports. The Customs manual was drafted a few decades ago, whereas the IVF procedure has gained acceptance and popularity over the past few years.

The new rules worked out by the Customs in consultation with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) will now allow import on a case-by-case basis, setting at rest the controversy that erupted over the possible use of these embryos for research purposes or to exploit surrogacy.

This matter has also put the spotlight on the Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Bill that is pending with the health ministry.
This law is expected to totally ban any export of human embryos.

IVF has gained popularity in the country among couples who find it difficult to have babies by conventional methods. But on account of a shortage and with many couples seeking to undergo the procedure in India, there has been a demand for embryos from abroad.

Long before the need arose to import human embryos, animal embryos were allowed to be imported for research purposes.

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