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The BBC's Christine McGourty
"Attempts to clone humans could result in the birth of babies with severe disabilities"
 real 56k

Dr Ian Smith, Royal Society
"I personally have some ethical concerns"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 19 June, 2001, 23:13 GMT 00:13 UK
Ban baby cloning, says Royal Society
A human embryo
Reproductive human cloning is "unethical"
Declaring a worldwide ban on human reproductive cloning offers the only hope of preventing scientists attempting to duplicate babies, the UK's Royal Society has warned.

Morag the embryo research sheep
Animal tests revealed the dangers of cloning
Researchers around the world have already said they intend to clone babies within the next few years, despite widely held fears about the implications of such work.

Reporting for the Royal Society to the House of Lords Ad Hoc Committee on Stem Cell Research, Professor Richard Gardner said cloning techniques should not be employed in human reproduction.

"Our experience with animals suggests that there would be a very real danger of creating seriously handicapped individuals if anybody tries to implant cloned human embryos into the womb," he said.

Worldwide action sought

Professor Gardner says only by pushing for an international moratorium can the UK government "reduce the chances of such experiments being carried out in other countries".

"We think that a ban on reproductive cloning would have public support and is currently justified on scientific grounds. It would also help to improve the public's confidence in science."

He said that to ignore "the public's well-founded opposition" to reproductive cloning would be "unethical".

A surgeon at work
Cloning could help treat the sick and injured
However, the Royal Society opposes any move to outlaw research into therapeutic cloning - a field which could create unlimited supplies of replacement tissue, including neurones, bone, skin and heart muscle, for repairing injuries and treating disease.

The future of therapeutic cloning may be in the use of stem cells taken from cloned human embryos rather than from adult organs.

"Adult stem cells are small in number and often hard to access. With very few exceptions, adult stem cells will be only obtainable from organs of people shortly after death.

Stem cell shortage

"Since there is already an acute shortage of donors of organs for transplantation, work on adult stem cells is going to entail even greater competition for scarce resources."

However, while the cloned human embryos used in therapeutic research are not allowed to develop into foetuses, progress made in the field will make reproductive cloning all the more possible.

Professor Zavos
Professor Zavos plans to clone a baby by 2003
Professor Panos Zavos, who says he expects to offer couples the chance of having a cloned baby by 2003, has long argued that any attempt to ban serious research will be counterproductive.

He fears human cloning will merely take place away from public scrutiny if such a ban is implemented.

"It is time for us to develop the package in a responsible manner, and make the package available to the world. I think I have faith in the world that they will handle it properly."

The Royal Society said Professor Zavos's claims had prompted "a lot of unchallenged publicity".

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See also:

09 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
Human cloning: The 'terrible odds'
30 Jan 01 | Sci/Tech
Cloned human planned 'by 2003'
23 Jan 01 | Sci/Tech
Q&A: Therapeutic human cloning
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