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Scientists fight total UN cloning ban

31 August 2004
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 273

The UK's Royal Society and 67 other science academies around the world are urging the United Nations (UN) to ban human reproductive cloning, whilst leaving individual countries to regulate therapeutic cloning. However, the US is pushing for a global ban on all uses of the technology, which could be introduced at the UN's 59th General Session in October. Last year, delegates narrowly voted in favour of a proposal to delay any decision on a cloning treaty until 2005. But following pressure from supporters of the total cloning ban, the UN General Assembly decided to consider the issue again when it meets this autumn.

Professor Richard Gardner, chairman of the Royal Society's working group on stem cell research and cloning said that if the UN bans all forms of cloning, 'the UK, and other countries which currently permit carefully regulated therapeutic cloning, will not sign up to it'. Scientists opposed to a total cloning ban stress the need for a global ban on attempts at human reproductive cloning, such as the claims made this week by maverick fertility doctor Panos Zavos. 'To effectively stop cowboy cloners claiming that their work on human reproductive cloning is acceptable, because it is not outlawed throughout the world, a UN convention must be passed that all countries are willing to endorse', said Gardner.

Therapeutic cloning research aims to harness the natural ability of embryo stem cells (ES cell) to grow into any of the 200 different types of tissue found in the body. The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has recently granted the first licence permitting scientists to try and clone human embryos for research purposes. The researchers, based in Newcastle, hope to develop new cell-based therapies for diabetes. Other scientists are hoping to use ES cells in research on new treatments for diseases such as motor neuron and Parkinson's disease. Human reproductive cloning, the use of cloning technology to create a genetically identical person, is outlawed in the UK.

Gardner said: 'For countries that have not yet brought in a ban, a UN convention which draws a clear distinction between reproductive cloning and therapeutic cloning will provide invaluable guidance in passing effective legislation. It should be noted that the United States, unlike the UK, has still not outlawed reproductive cloning because of attempts to include therapeutic cloning in the ban'.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Britons attack US cloning ban bid
BBC News Online |  29 August 2004
Royal Society fights all-out cloning ban
The Scotsman |  30 August 2004
Royal Society urges United Nations to ban human reproductive cloning
Royal Society |  30 August 2004
UN urged to outlaw cloning of babies
The Daily Telegraph |  30 August 2004
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