Sunday, 11 November 2007

UN Analysis on Human Cloning

Ban human reproductive cloning, or prepare for human rights for clones, says UN study. Sunday, 11 November 2007 A report by the United Nations University's Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) on the advances on human cloning comes to the conclusion that the international community faces a stark choice: outlaw human reproductive cloning or prepare for the creation of cloned humans. In the second case global leaders need to be prepared to protect the rights of cloned individuals from potential abuse, prejudice and discrimination. The report by the UNU-IAS says a ban on human reproductive cloning, coupled with freedom for nations to permit controlled therapeutic research, is the global community's best option. The report is entitled “Is Human Reproductive Cloning Inevitable: Future Options for UN Governance”. Virtually every nation opposes human reproductive cloning and more than 50 countries have legislated bans on such efforts. However, attempts to reach a binding worldwide treaty failed at the UN in 2005, over divisions on whether to outlaw all cloning or permit cloning of human cells for research. Only a minority of countries supported a non-binding Declaration on Human Cloning to outlaw all types of cloning. At present, another 140 members of the UN have no laws regulating human cloning efforts, therefore providing loopholes for unscrupulous scientists. “Human reproductive cloning could profoundly impact humanity,” says UN Under-Secretary-General Konrad Osterwalder, Rector of UNU. “This report offers a plain language analysis of the opportunities, challenges and options before us – a firm and thoughtful base from which the international community can revisit the issue before science overtakes policy.” Without an international prohibition, human reproductive cloning accomplished in certain countries could be judged perfectly legal by the International Court of Justice, warn UNU-IAS co-authors Brendan Tobin, Chamundeeswari Kuppuswamy, Darryl Macer and Mihaela Serbulea. “Failure to outlaw reproductive cloning means it is just a matter of time until cloned individuals share the planet,” says barrister Mr. Tobin of the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland, at Galway. “If failure to compromise continues, the world community must accept responsibility and ensure that any cloned individual receives full human rights protection. It will also need to embark on an extensive awareness building and sensitivity program to ensure that the wider society treats clones with respect and ensure they are protected against prejudice, abuse or discrimination.” Presently “there is almost universal international consensus on the desirability of banning reproductive cloning based in part on religious and moral grounds, but mostly on concerns about underdeveloped technologies producing clones with serious deformities or degenerative diseases,” Mr. Tobin adds. “The failure to adopt an international convention on therapeutic cloning means that reproductive cloning is inadequately controlled. There are maverick scientists who are continuing with experimentation.” “As technologies advance and possibilities of success increase, the current consensus is likely to erode and with it the possibility of securing a ban on reproductive cloning.” “... but will the world be ready to accept cloned individuals?” “Whichever path the international community chooses it will need to act soon – either to prevent reproductive cloning or to defend the human rights of cloned individuals,” says Dr. A.H. Zakri, Director of UNU-IAS, based in Yokohama, Japan. The report calls the prospect of human cloning “one of the most emotive and divisive issues to face UN negotiators and the international community in recent years.” There have been no substantiated claims of cloned human embryos grown into foetal stages and beyond but such an historic event is not far off, most experts agree. Chamundeeswari Kuppuswamy, one of the co-authors of the report and law lecturer at Sheffield University, said: "China has guidelines on human reproductive cloning but no law as such, while there are many African countries that don't have any legislation in place." "It is not terribly expensive to set up the experiments, process the eggs and get the raw materials needed to perform cloning and as research in the area continues, someone is going to manage it." "The state of the science at the present time, however, means that there are going to be a lot of failures and deformities in any clones produced, which is one of the major concerns if it goes on unregulated." “Licences are being granted for therapeutic cloning, which means in time scientists will perfect the technique for human reproductive cloning.” Cloning have been achieved with many mammals like mice, sheep, pigs, cows, horses and dogs and US researchers last summer accomplished the first cloning of a primate – a rhesus monkey embryo cloned from adult cells and then grown to generate stem cells. Reproductive cloning is, for examples, banned in the UK but scientists are allowed to clone embryos for therapeutic research. Two years ago, a team at Newcastle University managed to create the country's first cloned human embryo, which survived for five days in a laboratory. Prof Alison Murdoch, who led the Newcastle team, said: "We shouldn't be afraid of the idea of having two individuals with genetically identical material, although I cannot see a good clinical need for that." "The risk you run by trying to ban cloning outright is that it may send those scientists who want to do that kind of research to countries where it is completely unregulated." Prof. Ian Wilmut, who led the team that cloned Dolly the sheep, welcomed the UN report, insisting that it would be "dangerous and ethically inappropriate" to clone a child. “By contrast, a method for the production of embryo stem cells would provide important new opportunities to study inherited diseases.” Reference: Is Human Reproductive Cloning Inevitable: Future Options for UN Governance ......... ZenMaster

For more on stem cells and cloning, go to CellNEWS at

No comments: