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Thursday, June 24, 1999 Published at 11:43 GMT 12:43 UK


Government response to human cloning

The UK Government has reaffirmed its policy that human reproductive cloning is ethically unacceptable and cannot be carried out in this country.

But it says evidence is needed of the potential benefits to human health before the use of cloning techniques for therapeutic purposes is allowed in research.

As part of the government's response to the joint report on cloning by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and the Human Genetics Advisory Commission (HGAC), the Minister for Public Health, Tessa Jowell, and Science Minister Lord Sainsbury announced that a new independent, expert advisory group is to be set up to assess the potential benefits of the use of cloning techniques for therapeutic purposes.

Ms Jowell said: "Following public consultation, the joint HFEA/HGAC report's recommendations included the proposal that regulations should be made under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 to allow research for therapeutic purposes which involved cloning techniques.

"The government reaffirms its policy that human reproductive cloning is ethically unacceptable and cannot take place in this country.

However, we recognise that regulations to allow therapeutic research should be very carefully considered.

"It has been suggested that therapeutic cloning techniques might be able to provide immunologically compatible tissue for the treatment of degenerative diseases of the heart, liver, kidneys and cerebral tissue, or repair damage to skin or bone.

"We believe that more evidence is required of the need for such research, its potiential benefits and risks and that account should be taken of alternative approaches that might achieve the same ends.

"That is why we have asked the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Liam Donaldson, to set up an independent expert advisory group to seek the views of a range of experts both here and abroad so that we have a clearer idea of the potential benefits of such research for human health.

"This expert group, which will be chaired by the Chief Medical Officer, will be set up shortly. We expect it will begin work during the summer and report its findings to Ministers early next year."

Lord Sainsbury said: "We welcome the report's recognition that the safeguards currently in place are wholly adequate to prevent human reproductive cloning in the United Kingdom, and that the government's policy of forbidding this practice received support during the public consultation.

"The government accepts the report's recommendations that the adequacy of the safeguards and related issues should be kept under review in order to address public concerns about the rapidity of development in these areas at the cutting edge of science and medicine."

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24 Jun 99 | Sci/Tech
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