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Wednesday, 19 December, 2001, 12:30 GMT
Scientist warns on human cloning
Scientist researching stem cells
Many countries have different laws on embryo research
By Science Correspondent Ania Lichtarowicz in Brussels

A leading ethicist has warned the European Commission's conference on stem cell research that strict laws may not be enough to stop some scientists trying to clone humans.

There will always be people who do not obey laws, who will not accept them, but there is nothing we can really do about that at this stage

Professor Nielsen

The conference, in Brussels, is intended to provide a forum for politicians, ethicists and scientists to exchange views, and help Europe adopt a common position on the issue.

Professor Linda Neilsen from Copenhagen University told delegates that laws might not prevent pro-cloning scientists like Dr Severino Antonori and Dr Panos Zavos from carrying out their plans.

"There will always be people who do not obey laws, who will not accept them, but there is nothing we can really do about that at this stage," she told the conference.

One question being asked at the conference is where such scientists could legally carry out cloning, as many countries around the world have banned it.

Cultural differences

Professor Neilsen believes that cultural differences will mean that some issues concerning stem cell research - the controversial field of medicine where cells can be taken from human embryos or aborted foetuses - may never be resolved.

In some European countries like Germany and Norway, using embryonic stem cells is banned.

Others, like the UK, have special bodies that control this type of work.

But Spain and Belgium, for instance, are still debating what type of legislation to have.

Along with many scientists and policy-makers here in Brussels, Professor Neilsen thinks that a Europe-wide policy will only cover certain issues that countries can learn to compromise on.

The conference is aimed at clarifying the position that European Union countries will eventually adopt.

Delegates include ministers, scientists, businesspeople and specialists in ethics.

See also:

18 Dec 01 | Europe
Stem cell ethics under microscope
30 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Breakthrough for stem cell research
29 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Europe rejects cloning ban
26 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Controversy over human embryo clone
25 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Cloning still to prove itself
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