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Sunday, January 11, 1998 Published at 18:37 GMT


European ban on human cloning

Thirteen countries are signing the first binding international ban on human cloning on Monday.

The countries, all members of the Council of Europe, are incorporating the ban into the European Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine.

The signatories are Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Spain, Sweden and Turkey. Another seven members are considering endorsing the ban as soon as it has been ratified in five countries.

The signing ceremony is to take place at the French Foreign Ministry in Paris after President Jacques Chirac opens a conference of Europe's national ethics committees.

The ban will rule out human cloning, but it allows the cloning of cells for research purposes.

Britain has been at the forefront of the debate since scientists in Scotland first cloned the sheep Dolly from an adult cell fused with an egg.

[ image: Dr Seed has been involved in embryology research for 16 years]
Dr Seed has been involved in embryology research for 16 years
But fears about the dangers of genetic engineering mounted after the American physicist Richard Seed announced earlier this week that he was ready to start cloning human babies.

Dr Seed predicted that as many as 200,000 human clones a year would be produced once his process was perfected.

He says that in addition to helping infertile women, human cloning will aid medical research.

[ image: Bill Clinton said
Bill Clinton said "scientific advancement does not occur in a moral vacuum"
Many scientists agree that cloned human tissue could be used to replace body parts damaged by disease or injury.

Meanwhile, US President Bill Clinton has urged Congress to pass a five-year ban on human cloning experiments.

But Dr Seed said if the United States outlawed human cloning, he would set up his operation elsewhere - mentioning Mexico, the Cayman Islands or the Bahamas as possible alternatives.


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