TOKYO (Reuters) - A Japanese government panel decided on Wednesday to permit human embryos to be cloned for research, a controversial process that has set off international debate, media reports said.
Supporters of medical cloning say so-called therapeutic cloning studies have huge potential for treating diseases and saving lives. But the issue is contentious, and opponents fear such research could lead to the cloning of human beings.
However, news agency Kyodo said, the panel's decision will not permit cloning for basic research until proper conditions are met, for instance, the creation of a government system to evaluate research.
Public broadcaster NHK said the decision by the bioethics subcommittee of the Council for Science and Technology Policy was reached after proponents forced a vote.
The council is chaired by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
Ten of the 15 members who attended voted in favor of the decision, which is to be included in a final report to be issued by the panel next month, NHK said.
Medical cloning studies have become a real possibility after South Korean and U.S. researchers said in February they had cloned a human embryo and extracted from it sought-after embryonic stem cells, in the first published report of cloned human stem cells.
The United Nations General Assembly has been debating the creation of a U.N. treaty to ban human cloning and the most contentious issue is whether to allow therapeutic cloning.
Members have been split on whether to allow such research to continue or to adopt a broad cloning ban.
Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms
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: Ethics, Professional
: Genetic Techniques
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: Philosophy, Medical
: Psychology, Social
: Reproduction Techniques
: Health Care Quality, Access, and Evaluation
: Cloning, Organism
: Analytical, Diagnostic and Therapeutic Techniques and Equipment
: Health Care
: Psychiatry and Psychology
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