Public Release:  International scientific body calls for ban on human reproductive cloning

More than 60 science academies from every continent in the world have called on the United Nations to adopt a ban on human reproductive cloning.

Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics

More than 60 science academies from every continent in the world have called on the United Nations to adopt a ban on human reproductive cloning. The statement was issued by the InterAcademy Panel on International Issues (IAP), a body representing scientific academies worldwide. In the same statement, however, the science academies say that therapeutic cloning should be exempt from the ban.

IAP members will present the statement to delegates of the UN Committee on Cloning, scheduled to meet at UN headquarters in New York City between September 29 and 3 October. The Committee has examined the possibility of issuing a declaration - in UN parlance, a 'convention' - that endorses a ban on cloning. Consensus, however, has been hampered by disagreements concerning the scope of such a ban, especially whether the ban should apply to research and therapeutic cloning.

IAP warns that human cloning poses a serious threat to the health of both the cloned child and the mother. Animal studies on reproductive cloning show a high incidence of fetal disorders and spontaneous abortions, and of malformation and death among newborns. According to the statement, there is no reason to suppose that the outcome would be different in humans.

Even if scientific developments meant that one day reproductive cloning could be undertaken without major medical risk, the IAP statement stresses that the practice would continue to face strong ethical, social and economic objections.

The statement, however, goes on to outline the substantial benefits that could be derived from cloning to obtain embryonic stem cells for research and therapeutic purposes. Therefore, IAP contends that such work should be excluded from the ban on human reproductive cloning.

"Human reproductive cloning is unsafe and no responsible scientist would attempt it given the huge health risks that are involved," says Yves Quéré, co-chair of the IAP executive committee and former foreign secretary of the French Academy of Sciences. "Experience has shown that most cloned pregnancies fail or result in stillborn or deformed offspring. Even if these problems can be solved, serious ethical problems will remain that no one can ignore."

"Human reproductive cloning is already illegal in some countries," Quéré adds, "but other countries have yet to pass any laws or regulations. Failure by the international community to issue a worldwide ban on human reproductive cloning will enable unscrupulous individuals to continue to experiment on humans."

At the same time that IAP is calling for a ban on human reproductive cloning, it is voicing strong support for research and therapeutic cloning.

"Cloning to obtain embryonic stem cells for research and therapeutic purposes holds considerable promise for long-term benefits," says C.N.R. Rao, president of the Third World Academy of Sciences in Trieste, which hosts the secretariat of IAP. "That is why a ban on research and therapeutic cloning was excluded from the statement."

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