COPENHAGEN-The use of human embryos in industry should be banned and their use in therapeutic and scientific work strongly regulated, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has recommended to its 22 members. Its recommendation, approved Sept. 25, calls on European governments to forbid "the maintenance of embryos in vitro beyond the 14th day after fertilization."
"We realize the scientific world will find this very restrictive," said Bjoern Elmquist, a Danish member of parliament and chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Council.
The Council recommended that governments limit the industrial use of embryos, or tissues from. them, to strictly therapeutic purposes. It would forbid research on human embryos likely to stay alive and be born, as well as experimentation on living embryos, whether viable or not. It also called for a ban on the creation of embryos in vitro for use in research and on the practice of keeping embryos alive for later removal of usable parts.
The techniques the Council would like to see banned include the:
- Cloning of humans;
- Implantation of human embryos into the uterus of other animals;
- Fusion of embryos to produce chimeras;
- Production of humans outside the uterus;
- Creation of children from people of the same sex; and
- Choice of sex by genetic manipulation except for therapeutic purposes.
The assembly did not pass a more detailed regulation of re search on embryos that was part of the original draft recommendations. Future recommendations on scientific research will attempt to strike a balance between the freedom to pursue research and human rights, the Committee said.
"I doubt that these recommendations will stand forever," said Elmquist. "But we need these rules for the present. The alternative would have been either no regulation at all, or the very categorical banning proposed by the Roman Catholic countries."
The recommendations are a continuation of the Council's 1982 report on genetic engineering. That report proposed a new human right of diversity to include "the right to a genetic inheritance which should not be artificially interfered with except for therapeutic purposes."
Tor Noerretranders is a science writer in Denmark.