[BEIJING] The Chinese government has introduced its first regulations allowing the cloning of human embryos for research purposes under tightly specified conditions.
However, the regulations, which came into force last month, outlaw 'reproductive' cloning, or the cloning of a human to produce another human.
Scientists in China have been creating cloned embryos to obtain stem cells for research — so-called 'therapeutic cloning' — for several years, and Chinese officials have often voiced their support of the technique (see China gives green light to therapeutic cloning).
But this is the first time that the Chinese government has released regulations on the research.
According to Wang Yu, deputy director of the department of agriculture and society, part of the ministry of science and technology, therapeutic human cloning should be encouraged as it could help cure many serious diseases, such as Parkinson's disease and diabetes.
But therapeutic cloning research should be carried out according to set procedures, which is why the regulations, known as 'Guiding Principles on the Research of Stem Cell of Human Embryos', have been put in place, Wang says.
Under the regulations, stem cells used for research can only be obtained under certain circumstances, such as from naturally aborted embryos or donated embryos. All trade in human gametes, germ cells and embryos is banned, and the implantation of human embryos into humans or animals is also forbidden.
Wang says that the policy enables China to clarify its stance in a United Nations' vote, which is now scheduled for later this year, on a proposed global treaty outlawing human cloning (see UN backs off 'rush vote' on human cloning).
The vote has been delayed following controversy over whether such a ban should include therapeutic cloning. Costa Rica, backed by the United States and the Catholic Church, led the campaign to ban both types of cloning, while China, Germany, Japan and other countries preferred to allow individual countries to decide whether to outlaw therapeutic cloning.