“Chances are clones will soon be sharing the planet with us.” — Brendan Tobin, Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland
By Stephen Leahy
Nov 13 (IPS) – As scientists master the technology to clone primates, some legal experts worry that human clones are no longer in the realm of science fiction, and wonder what legal rights they would have in the absence of an international ban on the practice.
More than a dozen animal species have been cloned in the last decade, including sheep, cows, dogs and pigs. Just last summer, a U.S. research team reported the first-ever cloning of a primate. A rhesus monkey embryo was cloned from adult cells and then grown to generate stem cells.
“Human clones are absolutely inevitable,” says Brendan Tobin, a barrister with the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland, who researched a United Nations University (UNU) report on the issue.
“Chances are clones will soon be sharing the planet with us,” Tobin told IPS.
And they may well be welcomed as a new way of reproduction for the tens of millions of infertile couples, says, Tobin who co-authored the UNU report “Is Human Reproductive Cloning Inevitable: Future Options for U.N. Governance,” issued in October.
But what rights would a clone have? Many governments have banned human cloning. Would the clone itself be illegal? In France and other countries, it is illegal to participate in cloning activities and therefore the parents that contributed their cells for cloning could find themselves in jail.
Without an international prohibition, human reproductive cloning in certain countries could be judged perfectly legal by the International Court of Justice, the report warns.
“Do human rights protections apply to clones?” asks Chamundeeswari Kuppuswamy, of the School of Law of the University of Sheffield in Britain.
“It’s a unique situation that’s likely to get very complicated,” Kuppuswamy, one of the report’s co-authors, told IPS.
Virtually every nation opposes human cloning, and more than 50 have legislated bans on such efforts. However, negotiation of an international accord foundered at the U.N. in 2005 due to bitter disagreement over research cloning, also called therapeutic cloning.
There is almost universal international consensus on the desirability of banning reproductive cloning based in part on religious and moral grounds, but mostly on concerns about underdeveloped technologies producing clones with serious deformities or degenerative diseases. Only 2 to 5 percent of cloned animal embryos grow into healthy offspring, according to a study published in the science journal Nature in February of this year.
“The science is imprecise at this point,” notes Tobin.
However, as technologies advance and possibilities of success increase, the current consensus is likely to erode and with it the possibility of securing a ban on reproductive cloning, he said.
For full story see Reproductive Cloning Could Be “Inevitable”