At a ceremony in Paris on Monday (12 January), 17 European countries signed a protocol added to the European Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine that bans the use of human cloning for reproductive purposes — the first legally binding international agreement to do so.
Two countries were conspicuous by their absence among the signatories: the United Kingdom and Germany. Neither can sign the protocol because they have not signed the convention itself, the United Kingdom because of delays caused by the change in government, and Germany because it feels the provisions in the convention concerning human embryo research and consent by incapacitated individuals are not strict enough.
But British legislation setting up the Human Fertilization and Embryo Authority already forbids the use of human cloning, and human cloning for reproductive purposes is banned by law in Germany.
The signing of the agreement was welcomed by Jacques Chirac, the French president. Speaking at a meeting of Europe's ethics committees in Paris, Chirac said that an international ban was essential as otherwise the technology would migrate to countries where regulation was less strict.
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