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6-Regulation: Costa Rica promotes global ban on human cloning

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                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Costa Rica Promotes Global Ban on Human Cloning
SOURCE: Inter Press Service, by Nefer Munoz
DATE:   Apr 10, 2003

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Costa Rica Promotes Global Ban on Human Cloning

SAN JOSE, Apr 10 (IPS) - Costa Rica will present the first initiative for
a United Nations treaty intended to ban human cloning, coinciding with a
move by the European Parliament Thursday to ban the creation of human
embryos, including through cloning techniques, for medical research.

The document that the Costa Rican government sent this week to the U.N.
headquarters in New York proposes the prohibition of genetic manipulation
to reproduce identical humans or to cultivate human tissue for
therapeutic ends.

The initiative from this Central American nation has the backing of 40
countries, including Italy, Spain, United States and most of Latin
America, as well as from some African and Asian nations, said foreign
minister Roberto Tovar.

"What we are seeking is a ban on human cloning in all its forms, to
classify it as a crime, punish those who practice it and regulate
experiments that use human genetic material," explained the Costa Rican

The 17-page Draft International Convention to Ban Human Cloning in All
Its Forms was officially filed with the U.N. to be translated into the
six official languages of the global forum. It will then be presented to
the U.N. membership to initiate debate.

In making the public announcement Wednesday of the document intended for
the U.N. General Assembly, Tovar said, "Human cloning in all its forms
offends the universal conscience and leads to a loss of our freedom and

The reproductive method of cloning produces an embryo from a cell of just
one organism--instead of two parents--by extracting the cell nucleus and
inserting it into another cell. The result is an organism with the
identical genetic makeup as the original organism.

The technique produced its first success in 1996 when a group of
scientists at Scotland's Roslin Institute achieved the birth of the lamb
Dolly, the clone of an adult sheep.

However, the premature ageing of Dolly, which prompted the scientists to
euthanize her in February, indicates that this method of artificial
reproduction still involves many scientific challenges and unanswered

The Costa Rican initiative to ban all types of human cloning is based on
the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome (news - web sites) and
Human Rights, which the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO) approved in 1997 and the U.N. General Assembly
adopted in 1998.

The Declaration establishes limits for the intervention in an
individual's genetic makeup.

The U.N. text also clarifies the notion that the human genome is
"heritage of humanity" and that "Everyone has a right to respect for
their dignity and for their rights regardless of their genetic

Article 11 of the Universal Declaration states: "Practices which are
contrary to human dignity, such as reproductive cloning of human beings,
shall not be permitted."

According to the Costa Rican initiative, meanwhile, a person commits a
crime if he or she deliberately transfers a cell nucleus or divides
embryos to create a living organism "in any state of its physical
development, that is genetically virtually identical to an already
existing human organism or one that has existed previously."

The text calls upon the states that ultimately are party to the agreement
to establish the laws necessary to punish those guilty of such crimes.
The extradition process, international cooperation and dispute settlement
measures are also outlined.

"Cloning is something atrocious, but it wields great power over people's
imaginations," commented biologist Juan de Dios Vial, former president of
the Catholic University of Chile.

It is a "despotic" procedure to control genetic reproduction, which makes
it "instinctively repulsive," commented Vial, who accompanied Tovar in
making the announcement of the Costa Rican initiative.

However, there are scientists who see cloning as a potential alternative
for treating many types of health problems, such as heart disease or
liver disease, because cultivation of genetic material would allow the
production of identical healthy cells to replace damaged cells.

Cloning for medical purposes could also lead the way to finding cures for
terminal illnesses or improve the quality of life of chronically ill

"I am against the reproductive cloning of human beings, but I am not
against therapeutic cloning," Delia Rivas, a physician specializing in
research in this scientific area, said in a conversation with IPS.

Rivas worked at the only laboratory in Costa Rica that carried out in
vitro fertilization, until the procedure that was declared
unconstitutional and prohibited in that country in 2000.

"The problem is that those who are against cloning for therapeutic
purposes consider the embryo to be a human being, and that isn't
necessarily so," she said.

An embryo cannot be considered a person, argues Rivas, because even
inside the human womb there is the chance that it will not develop or
that it will be spontaneously aborted.

But biologist Vial, who does see embryos as individuals, responded to
arguments about the advantages of cloning for therapeutic purposes saying
that the process requires creating many embryos that are never utilized.

"It is like manufacturing many human beings so that they die. If we let
this procedure go forward we would be saying to humanity that a living
organism is not always worthy of respect," said Vial.

For approval by the U.N. General Assembly, the Costa Rican-promoted draft
Convention requires the votes of half-plus-one of the delegates present
for the sessions.

"A text was needed that would serve as the basis for the initial
negotiations," said Carlos Fernando Díaz, Costa Rican adviser at the U.N.
and one of the authors of the proposal, which he considers quite flexible.

Díaz told IPS that a ban on all types of cloning would be a way to ensure
human dignity because it would prevent genetic commercialization that
could exploit the poor people of the world.

He said that the countries opposed to a human cloning ban, such as China
and Singapore, point to the need to promote genetic research and
development. The two Asian countries encourage therapeutic cloning as a
means to foment economic development.

Israel and Japan are among the countries that have prohibited human
cloning. In Canada there are efforts underway to implement a ban.

The U.S. Congress, meanwhile, voted in 2001 to ban human cloning for
reproductive purposes and for medical research, with violators of the law
facing penalties of up to 10 years in prison.

Once the war in Iraq is over and tensions in the Persian Gulf have
lessened, experts believe the proposed convention to ban all forms of
human cloning could become one of the leading debates in the
international arena.

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  German Parliament Seeks Global Cloning Ban Via UN
SOURCE: Reuters
DATE:   Feb 20, 2003

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German Parliament Seeks Global Cloning Ban Via UN

HAMBURG (Reuters Health) - Germany's lower house of Parliament, or
Bundestag, on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a motion calling for an
international ban on human cloning. The motion calls for the German
government to work "within the framework of the United Nations" toward a
ban on both reproductive human cloning and therapeutic cloning.
Reproductive cloning aims to make a baby that is genetically identical to
another individual, while therapeutic cloning creates embryos so
scientists can mine them for stem cells. Stem cells, the so-called master
cells of the body, have been hailed as a potential medical breakthrough
because of their ability, in theory, to replace damaged tissue. They
could, one day, be used to patch up damaged heart muscle following heart
attacks or to form new neurons in the brains of Parkinson's and
Alzheimer's patients. For diabetics, stem cells may be a source of new
islet cells in the pancreas. The motion stated that both forms of cloning
are not compatible with "universal" human dignity and said a UN
"international convention" against human cloning is necessary. The motion
was supported by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's SPD party and its junior
coalition partner the Greens. Also supporting the motion was the major
opposition party, the CDU/CSU. Germany's other significant party, the
FDP, opposed the motion. The FDP is opposed to reproductive cloning, but
argued that therapeutic cloning should be allowed.