Leader: US anti-cloning laws could be others' gain

March 8, 2002

The United States is turning away from stem-cell research and cloning (legislation proposing a complete ban enters the Senate next week). Thus does the warrior against intolerance elsewhere in the world fall prey to fundamentalism at home.

Fortunately for those who should benefit - with Superman star Christopher Reeve at their head - cutting-edge research knows no geographical boundaries. The US withdrawal is Canada and Europe's opportunity (page 14). Research dollars will follow the scientists who lead cutting-edge programmes wherever they choose to carry on their work. The result could be significant spin-off revenue for non-US universities and a real opportunity to lead in the development of one of the 21st century's defining technologies. Scientific diasporas have taken place before.

Making the most of this opportunity will depend on moving briskly to offer people jobs and facilities and to make sure intellectual property rights are sorted out. It also depends on maintaining a social and political climate conducive to advanced research in this area. Bodies such as the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority do much to provide public reassurance that British research has an ethical base. Less formal activities such as Science Week, which starts today, help increase and sustain public support.

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