Brussels, 26 Jul 2004
Three weeks after France approved stem cell research on human embryos for a limited test period, Japan has followed suit, with the Council for Science and Technology Policy voting on 23 July for guidelines that would allow scientists to produce cloned human embryos for scientific research.
The recommendations would enable Japanese researchers to use and produce cloned human embryos, but only for basic research. The embryos will not be used to treat human patients, a government official, Tomohiko Arai, is reported as saying.
The Council, headed by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, is to ask Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport, Science and Technology to draw up specific guidelines to regulate production and use of these cloned embryos, added Mr Arai.
The Council also approved the production of fertilised eggs for exclusive use in reproductive medicine.
The production of cloned human embryos has been banned in Japan since 2001 but researchers have been allowed to use human embryos not produced through cloning. The Council has recommended that only state-designated research institutes will take part in cloning research and that the state be responsible for examining whether or not production will take place.
'Cloned human embryos is a difficult but important issue to handle. I want the relevant government ministries and agencies to closely coordinate and address this,' said Mr Koizumi.