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Embryo Cloning Debate Grows in Europe and UK

Genetic Crossroads
December 7th, 2000


The European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE), an
advisory group to the European Commission, has issued a report saying
that allowing embryo cloning for stem cell research would be "premature."
The November report, "Ethical Aspects of Human Stem Cell Research and
Use," acknowledges that embryo cloning (also known as "non-reproductive"
cloning) may turn out to be the most effective way to derive stem cells
for use in creating compatible tissue transplants.

"But," it cautions, "these remote therapeutic perspectives must be
balanced against considerations related to the risks of trivialising
the use of embryos and exerting pressure on women as sources of oocytes"
that would be needed for embryo cloning. The report points out that
"there is a wide field of research to be carried out with alternative
sources of human stem cells: from spare embryos, foetal tissues and
adult stem cells." The report is available at
<http://europa.eu.int/comm/secretariat_general/sgc/ethics/en/index.htm>.

Embryo cloning is the subject of public and parliamentary debate in the
UK, where the government has announced plans to relax its regulations on
using human embryo cells for research. A briefing paper on the science
and politics of non-reproductive cloning by the Campaign Against Human
Genetic Engineering (CAHGE) states that "Britain is taking an inter-
national lead in developing [embryo cloning] technology," a situation
that prompted the European Parliament to pass a motion in September
"censuring the British government for pressing ahead so quickly."

The CAHGE briefing paper clearly discusses the technical and legal links
between non-reproductive and reproductive human cloning, and proposes a
moratorium on the former "until there is a global ban on cloning babies
and until there has been a chance for a better informed public debate."
It also explains why a moratorium "would not harm progress towards
treatments for disease." See <www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~cahge>.


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