The German Embryonic Protection Act (EPA) came into force in 1991 and is seen as one of the most restrictive regulations worldwide for embryonic research. The EPA is a criminal law and is intended to counter the improper manipulation of human embryos. However, it permits artificial insemination within a marriage or partnership, sperm donation for single women and lesbian partnerships, the eugenic selection of sperm donors, and quality control of sperm. Also protected by the law are sperm banks; artificial insemination and embryo transfer without medical indications; research using embryonic germline cells and entire embryos with no capacity for development; dead embryos; and the cryopreservation of germline cells, pronuclei, and embryos. Related areas remain legally unresolved, such as genome analysis and its diverse areas of application as well as human genetic engineering as so-called somatic gene therapy.
The EPA forbids the following activities: the production of pronuclei and embryos for research purposes, research using embryos that are "surplus" to reproductive medicine and have a "capacity for development," the use of embryos for nonmedical purposes (for example, for commercial or industrial exploitation and research), preimplantation diagnosis, cloning as well as chimeric and hybrid formation, surrogate motherhood, and sex selection of sperm. There is no provision in the act, however, for the implementation of these restrictions, and the act is intended only to deter improper actions by doctors and scientists. All other involvement