In many parts of the world there are laws prohibiting reproductive cloning and pending legislation banning therapeutic cloning, experimentation on embryos, and other types of genetic manipulation. The information in this section was largely drawn from research and materials prepared by Global Lawyers and Physicians, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that focuses on health and human rights issues.
In North America Canada's 1995 Moratorium on New Reproductive and Genetic Technologies was reaffirmed with the March 29, 2004, introduction of Bill C-6—An Act Respecting Assisted Human Reproduction—which stipulates that "no person shall knowingly create a human clone, or transplant a human clone into a human being."
In the United States the President's Council on Bioethics issued a report on July 10, 2002, endorsing the prohibition of reproductive cloning and a moratorium on therapeutic cloning. In 2004 President Bush called on the Senate to adopt legislation to ban both reproductive and therapeutic cloning.
Mexico's 1997 General Health Law, which implicitly prohibits human cloning, was under review in 2005, and the Mexican government was debating a bill originally introduced in 2002 that bans manipulation of an embryo's genetic code. On January 15, 2004, Panama enacted a law prohibiting human cloning. Throughout South America there are comparable laws prohibiting cloning, although Brazil's legislation permits
intervention in human genetic material for the treatment of genetic defects.
The Council of Europe's January 1998 Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine strictly prohibited efforts to create a human being genetically identical to another human being and permitted interventions to modify the human genome only for preventive, diagnostic, or therapeutic purposes and only when its aim is not to modify the genome of any descendants. Austrian law does not ban the cloning of human beings but limits research on human embryos. The law stipulates that embryos can be used only for implantation in the donor and may not be used for other purposes, and the donation of embryos or gametes is prohibited. Belgian law prohibits reproductive cloning but does permit research on embryos under stringent conditions. Legislation in Finland, France, the Republic of Georgia, Hungary, and the Netherlands prohibits modifying the germ line but permits research performed to cure or prevent hereditary diseases.
In February 2004 Italy passed the "Assisted Medical Procreation Law," which prohibits "selection, manipulation, or any other procedure directed at altering the genetic patrimony/heritage of the embryo or the gamete, or to predetermine their genetic characteristics, with the exception of diagnostic and therapeutic purposes." The law also forbids "cloning interventions by means of nuclear transfer or early embryo splitting whether for reproductive or therapeutic purposes."
In December 2001 Sweden moved toward enacting legislation affirming that "creating embryos through somatic cell nuclear transfer for therapeutic purposes can be ethically defensible." Among other stipulations, Switzerland's Federal Order of December 1998 on the Revision of the Federal Constitution states that "the Confederation shall legislate on the use of the human germ-line and genetic heritage. In doing so, it shall ensure that human dignity, personhood, and the family are protected." In November 2004 Switzerland approved by referendum the Federal Act on Research on Surplus Embryos and Embryonic Stem Cells, which prohibits both the creation of embryos for research purposes (therapeutic cloning) and cloning for reproductive purposes.
In the United Kingdom therapeutic cloning is governed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act of 1990, which was amended to permit therapeutic cloning research on January 31, 2001. In February 2005 Professor Ian Wilmut, the scientist who cloned Dolly the sheep, and his colleagues Dr. Paul de Sousa and Professor Christopher Shaw were granted a license to clone human embryos for medical research.
In January 2004 the Ukraine instituted a ban on human reproductive cloning, but cloning for research or therapeutic purposes was not prohibited in the Ban on Human Reproductive Cloning Bill.
Japan, China, and Singapore maintain less than a complete ban on human cloning. In effect since 2001, the Japanese Law Concerning Regulation Relating to Human Cloning Techniques and Other Similar Techniques prohibits the transfer of embryos created by techniques of human cloning, but it permits the application of such for research purposes as long as the embryo created is not allowed to be transplanted into a human or an animal. On July 18, 2002, Singapore approved legislation permitting therapeutic cloning under strict regulations, but the Human Cloning and Other Prohibited Practices Bill of September 2, 2004, clearly prohibits human reproductive cloning, including the following stipulations:
- No person shall place any human embryo clone in the body of a human or the body of an animal.
- No person shall develop any human embryo, that is created by a process other than the fertilization of a human egg by human sperm, for a period more than fourteen days, excluding any period when the development of the embryo is suspended.
- Prohibition against developing a human embryo outside the body of a woman for more than fourteen days.
- Prohibition against collecting viable human embryos from the body of a woman.
- Prohibition against placing prohibited embryos in the body of a woman.
- Prohibition against importing and exporting prohibited embryos.
- Prohibition against commercial trading in human eggs, human sperm, and human embryos
In August 2003 China's Ministry of Health issued its "Ethical Principles on Assisted Reproductive Technologies for Human Beings and Human Sperm Bank," which permits cloning for research and therapeutic purposes. In January 2004 the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology and Ministry of Health issued "Ethical Guidelines on Human Embryonic Stem Cells," which prohibited research for human reproductive cloning.
In the Middle East only Israel has legislation governing genetic interventions. Its 1998 prohibition introduced a five-year moratorium on human reproductive cloning and germ line engineering. The purpose of the moratorium was to "determine a prescribed period of five years during which no kind of genetic intervention shall be performed on human beings in order to examine the moral, legal, social, and scientific aspects of such kinds of intervention and the implications of such for human dignity." Israel's Law 5759–1999—Prohibition of
Genetic Intervention (Human Cloning and Genetic Manipulation of Reproductive Cells) was amended in March 2004 to strictly prohibit reproductive cloning and genetic intervention such as germ line gene therapy.
South Africa's Law on Human Tissue 1983 bans the cloning of human cells; however, it has been amended to read that gene modification of the human germ line should not yet be attempted, offering the possibility of sanctioning future research efforts. Australia reinforced its anti-cloning stance with the January 7, 2003, enactment of the Prohibition of Human Cloning Act No. 144–2002, which "prohibits human cloning and other unacceptable practices associated with reproductive technology and for related purposes." In 2004 New Zealand enacted its Human Assisted Reproductive Technology Act No. 92, which prohibits:
- Artificially forming for reproductive purposes a cloned embryo. For the purposes of this item, a cloned embryo is not formed by splitting, on one or more occasions, an embryo that has been formed by the fusion of gametes.
- Artificially forming for reproductive purposes a hybrid embryo.
- Implanting into a human being a cloned embryo; an animal gamete or embryo; a hybrid embryo; a genetically modified gamete, human embryo, or hybrid embryo; gametes derived from a fetus, or an embryo that has been formed from a gamete or gametes derived from a fetus.
- Implanting into an animal a human gamete, human embryo, or a hybrid embryo.
The United Nations Addresses Human Cloning
In November 2004 the United Nations General Assembly set up an informal group to endeavor to negotiate a nonbinding statement to guide countries on cloning and embryonic stem cell research. The United States and a group of mostly developing nations were agitating for stricter policies, while European countries and Japan sought greater laxity for scientific research.
A draft guideline introduced by Belgium and supported by more than twenty countries—including Japan and many European nations—would ban reproductive cloning and allow governments to determine whether to allow some stem cell and other research. The rival draft guideline, supported by the United States, Costa Rica, and more than sixty other countries—mainly developing nations—would ban all human cloning in all countries that ratified it.
In view of the divisiveness of this issue and the disparate viewpoints, it is not surprising that the UN diplomats failed to reach agreement on a nonbinding declaration that would encourage governments to adopt laws on human cloning that would be acceptable to both advocates and opponents of stem cell research. In February 2005 the bitterly divided UN General Assembly committee adopted a nonbinding declaration calling on governments to prohibit all forms of human cloning, including techniques used in research on human stem cells. The resolution calls on member states to enact legislation "to prohibit all forms of human cloning in as much as they are incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life, adopt the measures necessary to prohibit the application of genetic engineering techniques that may be contrary to human dignity, and to take measures to prevent the exploitation of women in the application of life sciences."
Although the resolution is nonbinding and serves only as a recommendation as opposed to a legal requirement, the United States and other countries seeking to ban all forms of human cloning considered the UN declaration a victory.