Brussels, 24 Feb 2003
French President Jacques Chirac has called for an international convention on bioethics in an effort to address research into human cloning.
Speaking to France's national ethics committee in Paris on 23 February, President Chirac highlighted the need for measures to be taken against 'unscrupulous' research activities such as those alleged to have been carried out by the Clonaid company on behalf of the Raelian sect.
'The shock wave which shook the world when a sect claimed to have achieved the first human clone reminded everyone of the dangers attached to perverted knowledge,' said the French President
While the President underlined the valuable work of scientific research in helping to radically reduce suffering, disease and disability, he said that recent developments could seriously threaten human dignity. For instance, evidence suggests that there is a renewed interest in eugenics, a study of hereditary improvement of the human race by controlled selective breeding, 'which one would have liked to see disappear along with all forms of totalitarianism.'
'Unscrupulous laboratories carry out premature testing of new molecules on poor and helpless populations [...]. The trade in organs and tissues gives rise to a shameful form of trafficking,' described Mr Chirac.
According to Mr Chirac, such abusive activities constitute a challenge to the universal conscience and must be stopped. With this in mind, Mr Chirac said that he would call on the French parliament to adopt a law banning all forms of human cloning.
At the same time, the law would introduce regulated parameters so that embryonic cell research could be carried out to find solutions to diseases such as Parkinson's and diabetes. 'In authorising and providing a framework for research into stem cells for a period of five years [...], the proposed bill demonstrates the concern to find the right balance,' explained the president.
While imposing laws at national level are essential, the President emphasised the need to put in place international rules concerning this type of research. To this end, the French president announced his intentions to submit a proposal for an international bioethics convention to the United Nation's educational, scientific and cultural organisation (UNESCO) in the autumn.
Mr Chirac concluded by saying: ' We must advance with discernment, patience and a sense of dialogue.'
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