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Friday, 16 November, 2001, 09:41 GMT
Doctor to exploit cloning loophole
Dr Severino Antinori (left)
Dr Antinori (left) wants to help infertile couples have children
A controversial Italian doctor says he plans to start cloning humans in Britain after a legal loophole was exposed in UK cloning regulations.

Dr Severino Antinori wants to use cloning technology to help infertile couples have children.

On Thursday, anti-abortion campaigners the Pro-Life Alliance won a High Court ruling pointing out the loophole.

The Department of Health said it might move now to close it, but could also appeal against the verdict.


We want to begin a programme in the UK . . . I will phone my friend in England to establish the collaboration in cloning work

Dr Severino Antinori

The Pro-Life Alliance had argued that cloning laws were so full of uncertainties "that scientists could go right ahead and clone human embryos without any restrictions and without any possible sanction from the government".

Dr Antinori told the BBC's Newsnight programme he would start setting up a cloning programme in Britain immediately. He said: "Absolutely, this decision increases my chances very much.

"We want to begin a programme in the UK. My reaction is happy . . . I will phone my friend in England to establish the collaboration in cloning work."

Legal headache

UK law was intended to ban reproductive cloning - the creation of human babies by cloning - but permit strictly licensed experiments on cloned cells to develop treatments for degenerative diseases.

The Pro-Life Alliance said that the way the current law was drafted meant it applied only to embryos created by the union of an egg and a sperm, not by cloning techniques.

The judge's backing for this view leaves the government with a legal headache and means scientists wanting to apply for research licences will have to wait longer.

Dr Severino Antinori
Dr Antinori: "This decision increases my chances very much"
High Court judge Mr Justice Crane ruled that an organism created by cell nuclear replacement was not an embryo and was therefore not covered by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act.

The process, used to create Dolly the sheep clone, was meant to be governed by the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, but the Pro-Life Alliance said Thursday's ruling meant "there are no safeguards to stop any form of cloning in this country".

The Pro-Life Alliance had gone to the High Court to seek declarations that would either halt cloning experiments altogether or force the government to tighten up the legal framework, which, they argued was failing to provide essential safeguards.

Dr Antinori now plans to exploit the legal loophole.

He said: "In Britain, for me, the level of the technology is extraordinary - for me, in one, two, three months is ready to perform a lot of investigations, a lot of applications."

Government opposition

"I am convinced two months is enough to perform a lot of programmes."

Health Minister Lord Hunt told Newsnight: "We need to look very carefully at the comments made by the Italian doctor.

"We had thought that it was outlawed by the 1990 Act. We had thought that the regulatory authority had the power to refuse any licence to people engaged in cloning.


We are totally opposed to human reproductive cloning and have said that we will introduce legislation to make this a specific criminal offence

Health Minister Lord Hunt
"It appears that isn't the case and that's why we're giving very urgent consideration to what needs to happen next."

Lord Hunt had earlier reiterated the government's opposition to human reproductive cloning.

He said: "We are totally opposed to human reproductive cloning and have said that we will introduce legislation to make this a specific criminal offence.

"The judge granted leave to appeal against his decision and we intend to do so."

Lord Hunt stressed that stem cell research using embryos created by egg and sperm to treat serious diseases was not affected by this judgment.

See also:

15 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Court backs cloning challenge
15 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Campaigners hail cloning verdict
06 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Cloning doctor to make UK bid
25 Oct 01 | Sci/Tech
Clone pregnancy 'this year'
06 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Warning over dangers of cloning
23 Jan 01 | UK Politics
UK enters the clone age
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