Ban on Human Cloning
Wed, 17 Nov 1999 16:04:20 EST

I don't know if you guys saw this yet but here it is....

Agency to prepare bill to ban human cloning

Yomiuri Shimbun

The Science and Technology Agency will shortly start work on a bill to prohibit human cloning, which will be submitted to the regular Diet session in January, government sources said Wednesday.

In its draft of the final report compiled the same day, a subcommittee on cloning of the Science and Technology Council's bioethics committee said that human cloning should be proscribed by a law that is legally binding.

The report is to be submitted soon to a meeting of the bioethics committee. The agency will then discuss penalties and punishments for violators of the law with related ministries and agencies prior to preparing a bill for submission to the Diet.

The council is an advisory organ to the prime minister.

It will be the first time in the country that life science-related studies have been regulated by law.

Since the birth of Dolly the sheep in Britain in 1996--the first cloned mammal--many people have become worried about the technology being used to clone human beings.

Britain, Germany and many other major nations have legally banned human cloning. However, in the United States, although discussions have been held and bills have been presented, so far the U.S. Congress has passed no legal restrictions.

Though lagging behind other major nations in this field, Japan has chosen to implement controls similar to those of European nations.

During discussion on the draft of the final report, members of the cloning subpanel concluded that cloning human is of no positive use, and is therefore not worth doing.

It also said cloning violates respect for human life and poses safety problems for those born as a result of cloning technology.

The subpanel also pointed out that using government guidelines as a control measure would only influence doctors and researchers who belong to institutions, and would not affect the private sector.

Thus, it concluded it is necessary to legally prohibit operations to create human fetuses at an early stage of development by use of cloning technology and then implant them in human or animal bodies.

This decision was obviously influenced by the fact that in the United States, which has no laws to restrict human cloning, some private institutions have publicly announced that they are willing to clone humans.

However, the committee also said that the law should be reviewed in three to five years, taking into consideration future technological development. This is because means of restricting human cloning as well as public opinion may change, according to the sources.

Meanwhile, the committee avoided reaching a conclusion on the cultivation of embryonic stem cells (ES cells) that are used to create fetuses. These cells can be grown into human internal organs, utilizing the same techniques used in the human cloning. This is because such studies may be useful in other fields in the future, according to the sources.

They decided to continue to discuss the matter in a subcommittee of the bioethics committee that specializes in human fetuses.

In August 1998, the Education Ministry banned the application of cloning technology to humans, even if the fetuses were not brought to full term, under the ministry's guidelines.

However, the guidelines proved to be insufficient, when it was revealed earlier this month that a research group at Tokyo University of Agriculture had carried out experiments despite government guidelines.

Furthermore, it became obvious that there were no effective measures to prevent further such experiments.

Copyright 1999 The Yomiuri Shimbun