PARIS — Though 19 other European countries decided to sign, Britain is just one of several nations that refused to put its name to an international ban against human cloning, sparked by the recent announcement of Chicago physicist Richard Seed that he would attempt such a project. Besides setting off a media frenzy, the announcement has elicited worldwide outrage and calls to make human cloning efforts illegal.
The agreement was signed by 19 of a possible 40 countries at the French Foreign Ministry, in Paris, at the conference of Europe's national ethics committee. French President Jacques Chirac criticized Britain's stance. Such a ban will not work, he said, if scientists can simply conduct this kind of research in a country that allows it.
Though Russia was another non-signee, the Russian Research Institute of Molecular Genetics has appealed to its country's lawmakers to prohibit this kind of cloning research. And the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries Associations, representing most of the European pharmaceutical industry, issued a statement Tuesday reiterating previous opposition.
In the U.S. President Bill Clinton over the weekend called for a law banning human cloning and chastised Congress for not already enacting such legislation. Some U.S. observers, however, warn that any rush to adopt such a law is likely to be scientifically imprecise.