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Tuesday, 16 April, 2002, 10:41 GMT 11:41 UK
Chinese cloning control required
Human cell, BBC
The manipulation of human cells has ethical consequences
test hello test
By Ania Lichtarowicz
BBC science reporter in Shanghai, China
Strict ethical guidelines are needed in China to calm public fears about new cell technologies such as cloning, one of the country's leading scientists has said.

Professor Ching-Li Hu, the former deputy director of the World Health Organization, was speaking at the Seventh Human Genome Meeting in Shanghai.

The world's scientists... have to know what things they can do and what they can't do

Prof Ching-Li Hu
His call follows recent reports that Chinese scientists are making fast progress in some of these research fields.

One group in the Central South University in Changsa is said to be producing human embryo clones, while another team from the Sun Yat-sen University of Medical Sciences in Guangzhou is reported to have fused human and rabbit cells to make tissues for research.

Scientists and doctors in Shanghai would like the Chinese Government to set up an ethics committee to regulate the research now taking place in laboratories.

International standards

There are fears that some Chinese scientists might be tempted to push the boundaries of what is acceptable to compete with the US and Europe in areas like stem cell research.

But delegates to the Shanghai meeting doubted this would be the case.

Professor Ching-Li Hu said individual institutions had guidelines in place which clearly stated what type of work could or could not be carried out - but he conceded more needed to be done.

"I think that at the national level we need an ethics committee to guide all this bioethics and biotechnolgical research."

However, he warned that even with guidelines in place, it would be impossible to monitor all scientific work around the world.

"I think that all the world's scientists have to be aware - they have to know what things they can do and what they can't do."

Chinese scientists at the meeting said they wanted strict guidelines not only for the sake of their own consciences but to demonstrate to the rest of the world that the country accepted internationally agreed standards.

The Seventh International Human Genome Meeting, organised by the Human Genome Organisation (Hugo), runs until Wednesday, 17 April.

Hugo is a forum through which the world's scientists can collaborate as they work to unravel our genetic code, and allows them to discuss some of the social, legal and commercial issues that spin off that research.

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See also:

14 Apr 02 | Sci/Tech
Complete genome map 'in 2003'
15 Apr 02 | Sci/Tech
China looks for genetics lead
15 Apr 02 | Sci/Tech
Asian genome project to be launched
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