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Verbatim report of proceedings
Wednesday, 6 September 2000 - Strasbourg OJ edition

10. Human cloning (continuation)

  Fiori (PPE-DE).(IT) Mr President, Commissioner, I believe that every person who is motivated by faith in man, right from the very first moment of his existence, must be guaranteed the unconditional respect which is morally due to the human person in its entirety.

Therefore, we must state, loud and clear, our opposition to experiments which involve the destruction of human embryos. An embryo is already a human person with a very specific identity, and every action which is not intended to benefit the embryo is an act of violence against the right to life. Parliament must reiterate what it has declared many times in recent years, including last May. It is immoral to use human embryos for research, for those very operations to which the President of the United States, Bill Clinton, has allocated public funding, those operations which have been approved by Tony Blair’s British Government.

Sadly, it would appear that commercial interests are driving scientists to explore types of research which involve shortcuts and disregard all consideration for the protection of human life, which we consider to start at the moment of conception. The human body is not a possession, it is nothing to do with ‘having’, it is to do with ‘being’, with being a living person, and it cannot therefore be reduced to a machine made up of components and gears, materials and functions.

What people are trying to achieve is almost an attack on life; it is the opposite of the ethic of love of man and his body, even in that initial stage of being alive, of being in the world, the human world, with that body which is himself. To the extent that those who take human embryos and disembowel them, removing the mass of cells inside and extinguishing their life, contrive to say that there is no-one inside, for if there were somebody inside they would be worthy of love or, in a loveless world, they would at least have the right for their human dignity to be respected. Otherwise, the world would consist of violence, brutality and cynicism.

Ladies and gentlemen, to oppose destructive research on embryos is not just to adhere to religious principle, but to uphold a principle of civilisation as well: the absolute ban on one man being master of another which should still be at the very heart of our civilisation. We cannot allow man to have such great power over his fellow man.

But this does not mean that we are against research, quite the contrary. Alternative research is possible: research on the stem cells present in adults and on cells removed from the umbilical cord immediately after birth, for example. In addition to all this, research is indeed being carried out on adult cells and looks likely to yield results. Many research scientists are involved in alternatives to cloning and they are about to form major national research groups to work in this specific area.

Lastly, we propose that a temporary committee be set up to study these issues. We would like there to be in-depth studies of new issues thrown up by the life sciences, on the condition that it is clear that the positions adopted by Parliament cannot be renegotiated. It is those positions which the Commission must take as its starting point to assist us in producing well-founded recommendations.


  Goebbels (PSE).(FR) Mr President, Article 1 of the draft Charter of Fundamental Rights states that the dignity of the person must be respected and protected. Article 3 states that in the cases of medicine and biology, the following principles must be respected: the prohibition of eugenic practices, specifically those that are aimed at human selection; the prohibition of making the human body or any of its parts a source of profit and the prohibition of the reproductive cloning of human beings.

Such formal statements are not necessarily sufficient. Scientific advances are mind-boggling. The speed at which scientific research progresses is sometimes difficult for average humans, and even for politicians, to comprehend. This rhythm of progress in the techno-sciences, that is, in the marriage of science and technology, raises ethical questions that have major consequences. This applies above all to the new mastery of living mechanisms. In this respect, the British government’s proposal to refer legislation which seeks to authorise some scientific research into therapeutic cloning, including the human embryo, to the parliament at Westminster has led to all sorts of reactions and comments, both positive and negative.

Certain political groups in this Parliament are proposing a vote on a supposedly ‘urgent’ motion for a resolution. The Socialists are of the view that such issues are too important for the future of medicine, biology and human society, and because they are so important, this Parliament should carry out a more thorough job than a resolution adopted at top speed. This is not the gunfight at the OK Corral: This is not about being the first to draw.

This morning’s discussions on the monitoring centre for industrial change showed that this Parliament is capable of voting on everything and its opposite in the space of a few minutes. The Socialists are unhappy with this type of vote, which looks more like Russian roulette than serious parliamentary work. We would like to see a calm discussion of a vital problem, covering the opportunities opened up by genetic engineering and also the lines that cannot be crossed in this field.

This raft of issues concerns various standing committees in this Parliament. This is clearly a cross-sector issue, which deserves to be dealt with by a special temporary committee, which has the task of calling in experts and of holding hearings of opposing views so that we can have an objective debate, which is not skewed in advance by deeply-embedded prejudices.

I shall end, Mr President, by asking you, by asking all of us, to take this task seriously. We are prepared to withdraw our motion for a resolution if the other groups do the same and to try to work constructively together.


  Wallis (ELDR). – I welcome the Commissioner's statement and particularly its measured and considered nature.

The ELDR resolution that has been tabled takes the same view. We do not want a quick, ill-conceived reaction to events that have taken place in my country and the announcement made by the British Government. These are serious matters and reflect our citizens' deep concerns but we should appreciate the full context of the UK announcement, acknowledging the subsidiarity principle to which the Commissioner referred.

It is only a proposal, not a decision, and it follows a very careful and considered report by the chief medical officer's expert group on cloning. The matter has been under consideration for two years – too long, say some commentators, when measured against the lives of people with cancer, Parkinson's disease or organ failure who might be aided by this research. The experts' group merely proposes an extension to existing UK rules on the purposes for which embryos can be used in research.

I emphasise this is an extension to existing rules and controls in this very, very delicate area. We must respect the there are deep and genuine public concerns on both sides of this argument and this is what our resolution tries to do. The British Government has recognised that in its proposal because it will be the subject of a free vote, possibly later this year. I believe, although it is not my party's government, that the British Government has been measured and considered in its response. I ask this Parliament to be measured and considered in the way it deals with this important issue.


  Lannoye (Verts/ALE).(FR) Mr President, once again we face a fundamental ethical debate on developments in biotechnology as applied to humans. There are two opposing views in play: the first refuses to turn the human being and more specifically the embryo into a tool and is concerned at the potential risks for human society of the widespread use of certain techniques such as cloning. The second view considers that the right of those suffering from serious and hitherto incurable illnesses to be able to benefit from the potential of medical research takes precedence over any other consideration.

The British Government, without any prior consultation with other countries – and I emphasise this point – has apparently opted for the second approach, by declaring itself to be in favour of therapeutic cloning. The idea behind this decision is that therapeutic cloning, that is, the cloning of embryonic cells that are undifferentiated from human embryos available for research and production is a promising way forward. Even if this idea is well-founded, it is nonetheless true that this option gives human embryos the status of stock cells for medical use and involves the production of embryos, first for research purposes, and then, probably, for production.

I feel that it is extremely important to make two observations at this point. First of all, I would remind you of the Council of Europe's Convention on Human Rights and Bio-Medicine, adopted in Oviedo, in April 1997. It is probably fair to criticise this convention for its vagueness on a number of points, but in Article 18, it states quite clearly that the production of human embryos for research purposes is prohibited. There has been consensus on this point throughout Europe until quite recently, but this consensus has just been broken by the position adopted by the government of the United Kingdom.

My second observation is that, according to several experts, and as Mr Busquin, Commissioner for Research mentioned earlier, there are other routes open to respond to the legitimate expectations of those who are suffering from serious genetic illnesses. In particular, there are routes that do not require the production of embryos by cloning, but which use adult cells. Why then, given this scenario, should we immediately rush into something that is ethically and socially questionable?

To conclude, I believe that the knowledge that has been acquired in gene therapy could be promising for humanity, but that they are also full of potential risks and are open to serious abuse. We therefore need a rigorous legal framework and clear legal guidelines. Upholding the ban on human cloning, rather than establishing it in the first place – I am talking about upholding the ban – is crucial in this respect. Our Parliament has the responsibility of restating this, not by rushing into anything, but simply by remaining consistent with our earlier positions.


  Thomas-Mauro (UEN).(FR) Mr President, two hundred years ago, Doctor Cabanis, a philosopher of the Enlightenment, proposed to dare to reconsider and improve on the work of nature. His idea was that, having demonstrated such great curiosity about how to make the animal races more beautiful and better, how shameful it was to completely neglect the human race, as if it were more crucial to have big, strong oxen than vigorous and healthy people and to have sweet-smelling peaches rather than wise and good citizens.

Mr Cabanis’ dream is today close to becoming reality. His dream has a name: eugenics. This dream is in fact a nightmare. This nightmare takes on many guises, each one more monstrous than the last, whether it involves prenatal diagnoses, for example, which serve to destroy embryos affected by Down’s syndrome to avoid the trouble of eradicating the disease itself; whether it involves the production of excessive numbers of embryos that pile up in freezers; or whether, finally, it involves the cloning of human beings.

These embryos are human beings, whose lives are sacred. They are people. It is our duty to respect their dignity. What good are our grandiose declarations on human rights if we then treat human dignity with such scorn, and in the secrecy of our laboratories, at that? There is no doubt at all that the cloning of human beings would mark the birth of a new form of slavery, in which test tubes take the place of chains and laboratories the place of galley-ships.

Our bleeding hearts will, of course, reproach us for refusing to give scientific research the resources it needs in order to progress and even worse, to cure our illnesses. I do not accept this form of intellectual terrorism. Furthermore, I am almost inclined to think that in the minds of all these people, research is nothing but an excuse to conduct experiments befitting a sorcerer’s apprentice. As the wife of a doctor, I am extremely concerned that such research should be allowed to develop.

In this respect, it would probably be more appropriate to ask scientists to conduct further research into the possibility of obtaining differentiated stem cells for therapeutic purposes, particularly from adult organs. In order to combat those whose dream is to conquer the mystery of life, we have the right to protect the dignity of all human beings by strictly prohibiting the cloning of human beings.


  Bonino (TDI).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, in his speech just now, Mr Fiori made things very clear: he stated clearly that this is a matter of likening religious principles – his own – to the principles of civilisation.

For my part, I believe that what the institutions must affirm is the principle of secularity, and they must confirm that what may seem morally unacceptable to some must not by virtue of this be legally discounted. We must make the difference between the law and religious principles clear. If we do not observe this principle, then I fear that there will be no hope for us.

Mr President, to return to the matter in hand, we are aware that, in the face of new ideas – even new ideas which seem promising in terms of treatments for illnesses affecting millions and millions of people – the normal, conventional reaction always kicks in: to ban, to crusade, to shout ‘Barbarians!’ without even stopping to ask whether the ban can work, whether it would work or whether we are in a position to ensure that it is observed or to monitor it.

It is the same reaction as that which has been aroused by normal social phenomena for a long time now, in matters of abortion, migration or even drugs. We declare a ban and then we wash our hands of the matter.

It is my opinion, however, that the responsibility of policy-makers – which may be more difficult, more complex – is to regulate certain issues, set limits and avoid situations out of a western. This is the mandate of the institutions, independently of the religious consciences of any of their Members, where applicable. It is for precisely this reason that we, the Radicals of the Bonino List, feel that we can just about support the compromise of the Group of the European Liberal, Democrat and Reform Party. We want to try and reduce the gap between science and politics, to endeavour to govern new phenomena secularly together with the pragmatism of experimentation and successive approximations, without immediately launching into prohibitionist campaigns which we already know to be ineffective.

What we are doing now, exactly as we did in the case of illegal abortion, is merely sparking off, once again, the medical tourism of millions of people who will seek treatment on the black market elsewhere. What I am saying is extremely serious and fills me with concern. Watch out: when applied to science and social phenomena, prohibition has never worked.

I believe that it is our responsibility to set the limits, or take on board the risk of setting the limits, of successive approximations without trying to impose any ethical principles – in the case of those who have any – or principles of civilisation. The real civilisation of the institutions is the civilisation of secularity, experimentation and discussion.


  Wurtz (GUE/NGL).(FR) Mr President, I must apologise for my absence earlier. I had notified the services that I would be temporarily unavailable.

Mr President, my group disapproves of the decision taken by the British Government on the cloning of human cells. In our view, it does not take account either of European legislation on this matter or of the opinion that the European Union’s ethics committee is in the process of drafting on the consequences of research in cloning. We wish to state our support for prohibiting any research into human cloning and we oppose any commercial exploitation of biotechnological inventions that involve cloning.

Having stated these general positions of principle, the debate is only beginning on the attitude we should adopt towards biotechnological research, both in order to fully weigh up its ethical implications, but without running the risk of slowing down work which is likely to bring about improvements in human health.

Given the extremely sensitive nature of these issues, which concern civilisation itself, my group does not wish to see resolutions adopted in haste. Instead, we have from the outset stated our support for the establishment of a temporary committee on cloning and on biotechnological research so that we can hold the hearings necessary for adopting a position with a full understanding of the issue when the time comes.

This is why my group has not signed any of the compromise motions for resolutions that have been submitted to us today. At this stage, each of us will speak according to his or her conscience about the principles that I have just stated.


  Blokland (EDD).(NL) Mr President, in January 1998 we held a debate on the Council of Europe’s Protocol which contained a ban on human cloning. I then expressed the fear that countries such as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, which refused to sign the protocol at the time, were probably not in favour of imposing an outright ban.

This is less than two years ago. Meanwhile, the British Government would like to permit therapeutic cloning of embryos for research. I cannot help thinking that the boundaries are forever being extended. Initially, there was a complete ban; now cloning is allowed on a therapeutic basis but not for reproductive purposes. As if this would explain and justify everything. What then is the big difference between therapeutic and reproductive cloning of human embryos? And what do we do if we are put under pressure soon to apply the research findings in the pharmaceutical field, or to clone for reproductive purposes?

As far as I am concerned, every new human being is a gift of God. Any form of human life should be treated with respect. This is also the only way to safeguard human dignity. The treatment of the human embryo as a consumer article, supposedly justified by the argument that this is in the name of research, fills me with disgust, especially because there are other ways of cloning stem cells. I do wonder why this option is taken, despite all the ethical concerns which exist worldwide.

I would urgently call on the British Government to reconsider its far-reaching decision and would ask the British Parliament not to back this proposal.


  Paisley (NI). – Mr President, a proud man wants to play God. He refuses to acknowledge that he is only a creature. He wants to be the creator. The issue before us today is a battle between creation and man's discoveries. There are scientists so arrogant today that they are already patenting their discoveries, as if they had stumbled upon their own creation. Dr William Hesseltine, the chief executive of Human Gene Sciences Inc., has already patented 100 human genes and his company has submitted applications for 8000. They argue that human cloning is about the promotion of health. I am arguing today that human cloning is about the wealth of certain scientists and their companies. Some scientists have taken the lunacy of Hitler's fascism from the battlefield and are prepared to validate it in the laboratory. Parliament needs to reject this and as a member of the British Parliament I will be voting against it in my own Parliament.


  Liese (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the PPE-DE Group was dismayed to hear of the British Government’s plans with regard to the cloning of human embryos. Hitherto, all those in positions of responsibility within the European Union were agreed that the cloning of human beings should be rejected out of hand.

During the fifth research framework programme, the Council – inclusive of the British Government – voted unanimously in favour of a form of words that rules out cloning, as well as so-called therapeutic cloning. Parliament and the Council voted in favour of a text for the Directive on the patenting of biotechnological discoveries that completely rules out cloning of human beings, because this type of technology offends common decency and is an affront to law and order.

Commissioner, over the past few days, a number of articles in the press, as well as your speech, have given rise to some confusion regarding the fifth research framework programme, and especially concerning the Patenting Directive. The impression has been given that only reproductive cloning is banned. This is completely wrong. I was involved in the careful drafting of both texts, and both directives rule out therapeutic as well as reproductive cloning.

Take a close look at the documents, Commissioner, and clarify matters, or else you will have the European Parliament to deal with. And I do not think that is something you would want. Now this consensus between the States of the European Union and the institutions has been disrupted by the government of one Member State.

We as a Parliament must withstand this attempt to shatter taboos. But it is not just a case of making our feelings known, we must also ensure that action be taken as a result. Hence the PPE-DE Group has called for a strict ban on the cloning of human beings at all stages of their development to be incorporated into the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Finally, I urge the Commission to ensure that there is strict compliance with the fifth research framework programme’s call for no support to be provided for any form of human cloning. This also means boycotting the cross-subsidisation provided by research institutes in Great Britain. The best way to achieve this would be to ensure that those institutions involved in the cloning of human beings no longer receive any financial support whatsoever from the European Union.



  Gebhardt (PSE).(DE) Mr President, you should listen to the Commissioner! Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, there is no doubt whatsoever that biotechnology and genetic engineering are highly significant fields these days. They will continue to gain in importance in research, and in terms of their many applications. No one doubts that either. But is this difficult field, with all the hopes and fears it brings, being handled in a manner that is beyond reproach? I suspect not.

Today’s debate is positive proof of this suspicion. As a Parliament, we are reacting too hastily to a legislative proposal in a Member State of the European Union, which caused consternation amongst the public a few days ago. And what form has this reaction taken? A quick glance at draft resolutions on the table reveals that all Parliament has been able to do, in its haste, has been to reiterate its already frequently expressed stance on critical fields of research and the application of biotechnology and genetic engineering. That is all very well, but it is not enough!

We must make biotechnology and genetic engineering, but above all bioethics, one of the European Parliament’s key concerns. I am not alone in calling for this; I have the backing of my group. The people of Europe want to see more foresighted commitment from us in this area. We cannot afford to be overtaken by events any longer. We must no longer be in the position where – huffing and puffing to catch up – we find ourselves commenting on developments that are already at an advanced stage. The European Parliament must point the way, so that biotechnology and genetic engineering develop for the benefit of mankind, rather than being to its detriment owing to the transgression of ethical boundaries.

Therefore we should vote overwhelmingly to adopt the proposed committee, which will form the basis for far-sighted legislation. We must be aware that biotechnology is bound up with what is presumed to be the greatest revolution in medicine and technology. This revolution must not be attended by irresponsibly conceived legislation. We must appoint the best experts to advise the Council and ensure that there is consistency in the legislation across the Member States. The ethical issues and the need to protect human dignity, in particular, are so important that we cannot afford to leave them at the mercy of fragmented, possibly even contradictory pieces of legislation introduced by individual Member States.

We must get to grips with all the ethical issues raised by medicine, technology and science, as a matter of urgency. The appropriate parliamentary committee must therefore get down to work as quickly as possible. Our vote will set this in train.


  Plooij-Van Gorsel (ELDR).(NL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, biotechnology is currently one of the most promising technologies which can bring about a breakthrough in the medical world. Putting an end to cloning techniques in Europe will only shift research elsewhere, for example to the United States or, in the worst case, to countries whose ethical standards are worse than those in the European Union. As a result, expertise, research activities and employment will drain away to overseas countries. Furthermore, the products will end up back on the market in the European Union anyway.

What is this really about? Who are we to deny people the right to recovery? Would it not be too easy to ban promising technology with great potential on ethical grounds? Is not every person entitled to health and welfare? Who has the right to put the label of ethics on it? I can tell you that I, along with the Liberal Group, will be giving this resolution my wholehearted support.


  Breyer (Verts/ALE).(DE) Mr President, we have the awful situation where one EU Member State permits therapeutic cloning, which we have always been critical of. The people of the European Union are expecting the European Parliament to take a stance on this. I think it would be irresponsible if we were draw a veil over the issue by saying: ‘just to pacify you, we will set up an interminable debating society, or a temporary committee.’ We must take a stance on this decision, which is to be taken in the course of the next few weeks – yes as soon as that- without further ado, and then of course we must state our position on the issues we can expect to deal with in the future. But on no account must we gloss over this by failing to make our feelings known and by trying to conceal things in committees, which will disconcert the public.

I believe that what is happening now is of crucial importance. If we accept therapeutic cloning, then we will be opening Pandora’s box. It would bring the nightmare scenario of cloned and made-to-measure human beings that much closer. The arbitrary distinction between reproductive and non-reproductive cloning is semantic sleight of hand. The term ‘therapeutic cloning’ is equally problematic, because there is no question of it being a therapy. Cloning, including therapeutic cloning, is the first step along the way to human beings being regarded merely as biological material.

It is indefensible to deliberately – I repeat, deliberately – create life in order to use it as research material. This conflicts with human rights. We are also dividing up the concept of human dignity when we deliberately produce embryos in order to have a ready supply of spare parts. That is why Parliament must use its power to act.

Commissioner for Research, I am also expecting you to make an unequivocal statement today, on how you propose to proceed when a Member State disregards the resolutions of Parliament and the Council. We need a clear signal, and I feel it would be a sad day for politics if we were to cast aside all our ethical misgivings out of loyalty to Blair.


  Grossetête (PPE-DE).(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, it goes without saying that human cloning which seeks to reproduce a human being similar to another with the sole purpose of improving it must be clearly prohibited. This has always been this Parliament’s position and I think it is useful to restate this. Today, however, we are discussing the use of cloning techniques for therapeutic purposes and this has many implications.

These implications are, in themselves, medical. We must make the distinction between therapeutic cloning, which must be clearly differentiated from reproductive cloning. Cell therapy today represents great hope for many patients suffering from genetic or degenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and cancer.

There are also ethical and philosophical implications. What status does the embryo have? In order to answer this question, we might refer to the many debates that we have had on abortion or on in-vitro fertilisation. What is the status of unwanted embryos, produced by in-vitro fertilisation and condemned to be destroyed? Could they not provide new life?

There are economic and social implications. This debate concerns the whole of society. What is the American or Japanese point of view on these issues? Europe must take a global view and take account of the potential for research offered by therapeutic cloning.

There must be an in-depth debate. You have called for one and we agree. Perhaps it would be useful to define in advance what is prohibited and to produce a strict framework for acceptable practice. Safeguards are crucial. These issues are viewed differently from one country to another, according to their culture.

This is why the European Union’s action in this field must be guided by major fundamental principles alone. These principles exist and are: respect for the person, respect for life and for freedom but also for progress that will benefit everyone.



  Muscardini (UEN).(IT) Mr President, cloning and patentability are and must remain illegal wherever human beings are concerned. There is no difference between cloning for therapeutic purposes and cloning for reproductive purposes. The end cannot justify the means when human dignity is at stake, for human dignity must be respected above all things.

The use of human embryos to produce organs can therefore in no way be justified. In fact, when an embryo is used in this way a potential human being is eliminated, which clearly contradicts the value attached to the declared goal of saving other human lives. It would certainly be a different matter if mere stem cells were to be used rather than embryos.

In our opinion, it is ethically wrong to attempt to alter the nature of the fundamental rules of the origins of life. We must stop and reflect on the possible implications of upsetting the laws of nature. The precautionary principle must be invoked and applied to the possibility of cloning for therapeutic purposes. Indeed, it is no coincidence that the 1998-2002 fifth research and technological development framework programme excludes the financing of projects which involve the cloning of embryos for reproductive purposes and does not provide for funding research into cloning for therapeutic purposes.

In respect for the differences of opinion on the matter, we feel that it is vital to lay down ethical standards based on respect for human dignity in the biotechnology sector.

We call upon the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies to take the risks of going beyond certain limits into due consideration, for once these limits have been passed anything appears legitimate if human dignity is not respected. I hope that, as President Prodi maintains, Europeans will be able to unite on the basis of common values.

To this end, the Commission must facilitate an open debate aimed at finding the right balance between ethical inflexibility based on the refusal to exploit the human body for commercial ends and the obligation to meet the need for medical treatment.

We call upon the Council to take up the initiative of organising an international convention on the use of live tissue to prevent human embryos being marketed and used for unnatural purposes. It is important, Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, that we do not create another species of human being in the same way that we appear to be provoking natural and environmental disasters.


  Linkohr (PSE).(DE) Mr President, it is a pity that none of the British delegates who support the government’s stance have taken the floor. It would have been interesting to hear their arguments too, because I am quite sure that they must have had a few thoughts on the matter . In Great Britain, it has been permissible, since 1990, to experiment on embryos up to fourteen days old. I believe this is the next logical step.

Why does Great Britain behave differently to the continent? That is certainly an interesting question. The difference obviously does not depend on which government is in power. It was a Conservative Government before, and now they have a Labour Government, and yet nothing has changed. Why is public opinion in Great Britain unlike that on the other side of the Channel? It would be entirely appropriate to discuss this kind of issue during this debate, because we have the privilege of being in the company of delegates from the four corners of the European Union. That was the first comment I wanted to make.

Secondly, I wanted to say how impressed I was with Mrs Bonino’s comments. It really struck a chord with me. I too would advocate that we should allow ourselves to be guided by the laity in matters of principle. The State is not religious, but it has a duty to respect religion. I too have respect for whether someone is Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish or whatever. But I also want my opinion to be respected. However this is only possible within a lay context. Claims of infallibility have already done Europe untold damage. We should endeavour to leave this behind. No one has a monopoly on ethics. People who see things differently are ethical too.

Incidentally, we have seen time and again how bans are watered down in practice. Everyone could cite examples of this. That is why I am firmly convinced – whatever we decide here – that in a cosmopolitan society performing research from a variety of perspectives, knowledge will out. At the end of the day, we will have no choice but to deal with this knowledge in a responsible manner by trying to circumscribe it. Mr Wurtz, a ban on any type of research may be called for, but it would be extraordinarily naïve to believe that this ban would be observed. In the final reckoning, we will have no choice but to lay down boundaries.

I feel as many other people do about this issue. The thought of embryos being meddled with and experimented on makes my hair stand on end. There are certainly boundaries. But practical experience has shown me that at the end of the day, it will probably not be possible to do a great deal more than simply circumscribe everything. There is no need for us to take action at present. We still have time. We need to think very carefully about how we are going to proceed in this matter. We have committees for this purpose, and sometimes reading a good book has its uses.


  Ahern (Verts/ALE). – An important European value that we all, whether lay or religious, purport to share is that any experimentation on a human being should only be for their exclusive and direct benefit. We depart from that principle at our peril and here we clearly have departed from it. We cannot experiment on human beings at any stage of their development and we certainly cannot mass-produce embryos for experimentation. The next stage will be commercial exploitation, which our own bio-patenting directive allows for.

The UK authorities argue that in spite of ethical doubts the cloning of human embryos is necessary because it is the only way to help patients suffering from various diseases. Many scientists dispute this and recommend more research with adult stem cells to achieve the same results in curing diseases. Can we not get together and find a way of dealing with stem research without experimenting directly on human beings? I hope this House agrees that this is a value that Europe was built on.


  Purvis (PPE-DE). – This is an emotive subject, not least because of the title 'Human cloning'. Stem cell research would be a less tendentious title. But my purpose is to ask for calm reflection and consideration of the facts and the implications for us the human race, for our health and well-being, for the future of science and the health industry in Europe and, by no means least, for our spiritual well-being.

So let us get some facts straight. Fact: human reproductive cloning is banned in the UK. There is no intention to change this and the UK industry has no intention of carrying out human reproductive cloning now or in the future. The research use of embryonic stem cells is a short-term response to a scientific need to discover ways of reprogramming adult cells.

Fact: stem cell research is tightly regulated under a stringent act of Parliament by the highly respected and rigorous Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. It would perhaps be a good idea if other Member States were to have something similar.

Fact: there have recently been interesting advances in adult stem cell research, but there still remain significant disadvantages compared with the unique characteristics of embryonic stem cells. The aim of research in embryonic stem cells is to find ways of using adult stem cells which overcome these disadvantages.

So we come down to the basic dilemma. Is an embryo up to 14 days old a living being with the full rights of a living person or of a foetus? Rightly or wrongly, the UK and the US legislation have permitted this type of research for ten years and many benefits have resulted. And after consulting world-wide for many months the Donaldson report recommends extending such research for therapeutic purposes.

The choice is yours, colleagues. You have to be true to your conscience and your faith but also consider the future well-being of your neighbour. Caring for your neighbour is also a Christian enjoinder. He may have Alzheimer's or Parkinson's or diabetes.


  Hermange (PPE-DE).(FR) Mr President, this is a serious and complex subject, which has been brought to the fore by the British decision. It should also be pointed out that national legislation on this issue varies enormously, which can lead to uncontrolled practices, but these practices, as Mrs Grossetête said just now, may make us question the value some countries place on the reality of the principle of respect for human life from the embryonic stage, stated in Article 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which forbids the production of embryos for human purposes.

The difference between provisions shows how complex the debate is and raises several questions that merge into one another. What does respect for life mean? What does the pre-embryo mean in relation to the embryo? Do we have the right to authorise research into the embryo for therapeutic purposes? Where do the stem cells come from? Should embryos be cloned? Do stem cells come from foetal tissue as well as from adult tissue? Do we have the right to create embryos for any purposes other than for life itself? In the face of serious illnesses, which are currently incurable, do we have the right to prevent research being carried out, which we are told may bring hope?

All of these questions are laden with consequences and concern the meaning of life itself. This is why we must have dialogue, especially within the European bodies, and I regret the fact, Commissioner, that President Prodi gave a sneak preview of his interventions on Monday to the press before he shared them with the European Parliament. I must say that his comments were very cautious and carefully measured on this issue.

Secondly, I think that in order to hold this debate, Parliament should create an ad hoc Parliamentary committee which, could, in the first instance, quickly take the initiative of hearing experts from all disciplines, both from Europe and from across the Atlantic. This debate must also, however, be held in the public domain. That is why I propose that European ‘assises’ for bioethics be launched and there should finally be a provision which allows us to frame practices in this area at a time when we are pointlessly establishing monitoring centres. I propose that a European Agency for reproductive and biotechnological medicine be created.


  Busquin, Commission.(FR) Mr President, I feel that I should respond, because Mr Liese asked a specific question during the debate. His question concerned the fifth framework-programme. On this issue, it is quite clear, as Mr Liese surely knows, as it is clearly stated in the fifth framework-programme, since it is subject to a codecision procedure, that research involving cloning techniques for reproductive and therapeutic purposes are quite explicitly excluded.

As a result, in the framework-programme, this is clearly completely excluded at the moment. I simply wanted to clarify this point, Mr Liese, since you asked the question.

With regard to the debate, on the other hand, as I said in my introductory speech, the Commission would like to enter into a debate with Parliament on these issues which are, as we have seen, very complex and very interesting.


  President. I have received eight motions for resolutions pursuant to Rule 37(2)(1).

The debate is closed.

The vote will be taken tomorrow at 12 noon.




(1) See Minutes

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