Since the beginning of 2001--Jan. 22 to be exact--it seemed that one country, the United Kingdom, had unambiguously--and literally--gotten its act together on cloning. On that day the House of Lords passed regulations, adopted by the House of Commons one month before, that not only allowed embryonic stem cell research to develop therapies for devastating and intractable diseases, but also situated cloning squarely within the framework of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act of 1990. Or so it seemed until a High Court decision of Nov. 15 threw the scheme into confusion and the government into a panic.

In a challenge to the regulations brought by the Pro-Life Alliance, a High Court judge had to decide whether the definition of an embryo, written into the 1990 act, could embrace an embryo produced by nuclear transfer. He said no. Thus, none of the provisions in the act could be applied to...

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