More MS news articles for Jan 2002

Russian Duma Votes for 5-Year Ban on Embryo Cloning

MOSCOW (Reuters Health) Dec 20 - Russian deputies took a first step on Thursday toward banning the cloning of human embryos amid fears their country could become prey for unethical experiments by foreign scientists.

The Duma lower house of parliament voted for the law which--if approved at a third reading--would ban cloning and the import or export of cloned human embryos for 5 years. It would not cover other living organisms.

The length of the ban would then be extended or curtailed depending on "the moral, social and ethical acceptability of human cloning technology," according to the draft legislation.

"While there are gaps in legislation, Russia may be used as a testing ground for unethical experiments by foreign researchers," an explanatory note to parliament quoted by Interfax news agency said.

US biotechnology firm Advanced Cell Technology said last month it had cloned a human embryo--the first reported success. It said it would use the technology to treat a range of diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson's, not to clone human beings.

The news attracted moral condemnation from world leaders including President Bush, who denounced the experiment as "morally wrong." Many European countries and faiths, the Russian Orthodox church among them, have also opposed the research and plan to ban human embryo cloning.

But some Duma deputies expressed fears the ban would leave Russia lagging behind the technological developments of its Western counterparts.

"We are always happy to follow the opinion of the world community," Alexei Mitrofanov, deputy of the nationalist LDPR faction, said. "But afterwards it happens that we, as always, are lagging behind the rest of the world and will be forced to buy the technology from other countries."

Copyright © 2001 Reuters Ltd