The lower house of the French government has passed a draft bill that would prohibit all forms of human cloning. The proposed law, if passed by the upper house, would make reproductive cloning a 'crime against humanity' and subject to imprisonment for up to 30 years and a fine of up to about €7.3 million. A vote is scheduled in the upper house for February 2004. The French upper legislative body is, like the lower house, said to be dominated by President Chirac's ruling conservative party.
In March, Chirac told France's national ethics committee that he would press the United Nations for an international convention on bioethics to prevent the abuse of human cloning research. He also said that the French government planned to ban human reproductive cloning, but would allow therapeutic cloning and stem cell research. The latest vote comes only a few days after the UN delayed for a year debates on a treaty that would recommend an international ban on human cloning.
The Mexican parliament has also approved a similar bill, intended to prohibit all forms of human cloning, including the use of cloning technology for research into potential therapies. Members of the National Action Party, which voted for the ban, said that adult stem cells can be used in place of embryonic stem cells (ES cells) in research. But the ban on so-called therapeutic cloning is opposed by many scientists in Mexico, including the Mexican Academy of Sciences - one of the 60 science academies that called on the UN to reject a ban on cloning for research. Jose Antonio de la Pena, president of the Academy, said 'this is an error that I hope will be corrected by the deputies [parliament] in the future'.
Meanwhile, legislatures in both Japan and the US state of New Jersey have taken steps towards allowing ES cell research. A bioethics committee advising the Japanese cabinet recommended allowing limited ES cell research, subject to approval by a regulatory body. The state assembly of New Jersey yesterday passed a bill by 41-31 permitting ES cell research - making it only the second state in the US to do so. The bill will also prohibit human reproductive cloning. State Governor James McGreevey said 'I look forward to signing it into law'.