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Wednesday, 1 August, 2001, 10:33 GMT 11:33 UK
US heads for human cloning ban
Human cell
It would ban the use of embryo clones for research
The United States House of Representatives has voted to ban all human cloning.

The legislation, supported by President George W Bush, passed by a 265-162 vote.

Cloning is an insult to humanity. It is science gone crazy

JC Watts
The House then went on to reject an amendment to the bill, which would have permitted human cloning for stem cell research, while outlawing it to produce children, by 249-178.

The amendment, proposed by Representatives Jim Greenwood, a Republican from Pennsylvania, and Peter Deutsch, a Democrat from Florida, was backed by medical groups and the biotechnology industry.

The bill is not yet law, as it first has to be passed by the Democratic-led Senate.

Voices for and against

"This House should not be giving the green light to mad scientists to tinker with the gift of life," said Republican Representative J C Watts of Oklahoma before the vote.

Some congressmen, however, argued that cloning for medical research was both morally acceptable and scientific good sense.

Congressman Peter Deutsch
Mr Deutsch's amendment was backed by biotech scientists
Mr Greenwood and Mr Deutsch said permitting cloning for research could lead to cures for terrible diseases.

"Why would we condemn the world and future generations not to have this miracle?" Mr Greenwood said.

Currently most stem cells for research are obtained from spare embryos produced at fertility clinics, but President Bush is weighing whether to allow federal funding for such research.

Embryos left over from in-vitro fertilisation are not clones and are not be affected by the new legislation. The legislation would threaten violators with 10-year prison terms and million-dollar fines.

Total ban

Despite the vote, Mr Greenwood is confident that the ban will not be approved in the Senate. He told the BBC's World Today: "The Senate has actually had this vote in the past and voted the other way - to keep therapeutic cloning legal."

He also believes that a heavy workload will postpone the vote for at least two more years. "The issue may die for the remainder of this Congress," he said.

Nevertheless, it is a setback for the scientific community, and a victory for President Bush, whose administration has supported a total ban on cloning.

"The president is pleased that it passed," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters. "It has the proper measure of ethics, science and respect for a culture that places value on life."

A White House statement issued on Monday said the administration approved of the development of cell- and tissue-based therapies based on research involving the use of nuclear transfer or other cloning techniques to produce molecules, DNA and cells - other than human embryos, tissues, organs, plants or animals.

Republican Representative Jim Greenwood
"It will take a number of years for Congress to get up to speed on the issue"
The BBC's Rob Watson
"Public opinion, like Congress, is very divided on this issue"
See also:

30 Jan 01 | Sci/Tech
Cloned human planned 'by 2003'
19 Jun 01 | Sci/Tech
Ban baby cloning, says Royal Society
01 Feb 00 | Sci/Tech
A better class of clones
23 Jul 01 | Americas
Bush's dilemma on stem cells
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