Chirac Wants World Ban on Cloning of Embryo

Criticizes Britain´s Decision to OK Procedure

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LYONS, France, FEB. 9, 2001 ( French President Jacques Chirac criticized Britain´s decision last month to let scientists clone human embryos for medical research. He called instead for an international ban on the practice.

Chirac, opening the Biovision world life sciences forum in Lyons, said Thursday that he opposed such «therapeutic cloning» for ethical reasons, and that the moral issues raised by the practice were such that regulation needed to stretch beyond individual countries, according to The Times newspaper of London.

«I do not favor the authorization of therapeutic cloning,» Chirac said. «It leads to the creation of embryos for the purposes of research and the production of cells and, in spite of the ban, makes reproductive cloning practically possible and leads to the risk of trafficking in eggs.»

Decisions about the ethics of cloning embryonic stem cells, which can potentially be used to make any sort of human tissue, would best be made at the international level, he said.

Under a French law passed in 1994, embryo research can take place only on «unused» embryos created for in-vitro fertilization treatment that have been donated by the parents.

Instead of pursuing ethically dubious efforts to clone human embryonic stem cells, scientists should be seeking to develop treatments based on adult stem cells, Chirac said.

He also said that scientists needed to consider the ethical dimensions of their work more closely, and that it would be worth considering researchers taking a pledge similar to the medical profession´s not to harm human life. «The time,» he said, «seems to me to have come for us to consider the introduction of a kind of Hippocratic oath and for us to define the ethical standards of businesses and laboratories more closely.»

He also told the conference that genetically modified foods should be subjected to more rigorous testing. But he added, «Faced with gigantic needs, it would be against the fundamental interests of humanity to prohibit a priori the modification of characteristics of certain kinds of vegetables, to improve yields or to make cultivation possible in arid regions or poor soil. The whole question is to establish how to do this without putting at risk the balance of nature, which is so important to human beings.»

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