Britain Refuses to Sign World Ban on Human Cloning

( [email protected] ) Sep 01, 2004 02:47 AM EDT

LONDON - The fear of pro-life groups and most conservative Christians in the UK has intensified as top British scientists are backing an international campaign to stop the United States from spearheading a worldwide ban on all types of human cloning.

Recently the U.S. President George Bush called for a worldwide ban on all kinds of human cloning, including both reproductive and therapeutic ones.

The Sixth Committee of the UN General Assembly will begin discussions in October on the introduction of a convention on human cloning. That means Bush’s administration can be effective as early as October.

British scientists may consider it threatening because the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) in Britain has just recently granted the first research license to some researchers in Newcastle for therapeutic cloning in order to develop new stem cell lines to treat a range of diseases.

One of Britain’s leading academic institutions, the Royal Society, wants an international ban on human reproductive cloning that still allows individual countries to make their own decisions about whether to outlaw therapeutic cloning, where embryos are cloned and stem cells are harvested to grow tissue for treatments. Sixty-seven other leading national academies in the world prefer this proposal as opposed to that of President Bush.

In fact, the UN could have introduced the ban last year. Despite powerful lobbying by the US, it failed in the end due to a minority who voted to postpone the decision.

Professor Richard Gardner, Chairman of the Royal Society working group on stem cell research and cloning, argued that a “UN convention must be passed that all countries are willing to endorse.”

He even condemned the U.S. for its ambiguous policy on cloning, “It should be noted that the United States, unlike the UK, has still not outlawed reproductive cloning because of attempts to include therapeutic cloning in the ban.”

The reaction of British scientist towards the world ban on therapeutic cloning has been alarming to pro-life groups and Christians in the UK and across Europe.

Added to the voice from UK’s Christian Charity CARE, Christian Medical Fellowship and Pro-life group LIFE in opposing therapeutic cloning, the Church of Scotland actually has been at the forefront of the debate on human cloning since 1996. The Church of Scotland has, since 1997, called for a global ban on reproductive human cloning.

Director of the Society, Religion and Technology Project of the Church of Scotland, Dr Donald Bruce said, “The researchers claim that it could eventually lead to the production of genetically matched replacement cells--so-called therapeutic cloning. Such claims are now increasingly criticized in the scientific community for being impractical…To provide a therapy for the hundreds of thousands of potential patients who suffer from degenerative diseases would require enormous numbers of human eggs. This seems unrealistic and probably too expensive. There is a danger that this might only benefit the very rich instead of being a general benefit to humankind.”

In Europe, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Christian Social Union (CSU), both criticized the UK’s move as “unacceptable” and “disastrous”.

German doctors and politicians have called for an EU-wide ban on the practice. Although cloning is already illegal in Germany, medical associations are calling on the German government to advocate an international ban.

The Catholic Church totally opposes all kinds of human cloning as well. The teaching has posed heavy influence in Catholic countries such as Italy and Spain.