Rich people could design their own babies because of breakthroughs in IVF treatments, fertility pioneer Lord Winston has warned.
Lord Winston, who is recognisable from his TV programmes such as Child of Our Time and The Human Body, told a fertility conference that he feared a time when the rich could alter the appearance and ability of children by tinkering with their genes.
He said that in the future, the rich may be able to pay to have babies with enhanced intelligence, musical ability and strength.
And he claimed a 'toxic' climate had been created by the desperation of childless couples and the pace of scientific developments in the booming IVF industry.
He said: "One of the problems with our work is that we have been carried away with massive enthusiasms in reproduction.
"That mixture of enthusiasm and patient desperation is actually a very toxic and heady mixture. It is worthwhile standing back a little from the technologies that we employ.
"One of the issues of the market is that rich people may well be able to afford, in due course, the kind of enhancement to their genetics that other poor people may not be able to afford."
He added that a growing market for fertility treatments and pressure to enhance human qualities could mean we 'end up with a society where some people may actually have something that might threaten our humanity'.
Lord Winston, emeritus professor of fertility studies at Imperial College London, was delivering a speech at the University of Kent titled Reflections on IVF technology – will we be human in 100 years?
But his comments were criticised by other fertility support groups.
Susan Seenan, chief executive of support group Infertility Network UK, said: "Most patients just want to have a baby. They are not looking to have a designer baby."
Dr Allan Pacey, the chairman of the British Fertility Society, said he doubts we will ever have the skill to alter complex traits such as musical ability.
He added: "The law prohibits it, even if it was technically possible. "Most infertile couples are desperate for a baby, rather than a specific type of baby, and I don't see that changing."