Paris - UNESCO Director-General Federico Mayor, in response to the debate unleashed by the successful cloning of an adult sheep, has issued a declaration stating this technology must not be applied to humans. The full text of Mr. Mayor's declaration follows:
"The cloning of an adult sheep using DNA from an udder - successfully accomplished by a team of scientists from the experimental farm of the Roslin Institute of Edinburgh, (UK) - represents a decisive technological step forward for biology. From a scientific standpoint, cloning was already practised at other levels of animal experimentation.
"Bovine embryos have been commonly cloned for several years, notably in view of selecting the most profitable cross-breeds, but this event opens new perspective. But it also raises many questions and fears regarding the possible application of this technology to humans. We must safeguard human kind's infinite diversity, our biological and cultural unicity.
"I applaud this scientific and technological achievement which will have a considerable impact on biology, especially on embryology and genetics. It will help alleviate and even prevent human suffering. Nevertheless, beyond scientific knowledge and technological possibility, ethics must draw the divide between the possible and the acceptable.
"Human beings must not be cloned under any circumstances. Moreover, UNESCO's International Bioethics Committee (IBC), which has been reflecting on the ethics of scientific progress, has maintained that the human genome must be preserved as common heritage of humanity."
UNESCO's Director-General has requested the Organization's International Bioethics Committee to inform him of the extent to which the future Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and the Protection of Human Rights is to rule out human cloning and any use of this technology which might undermine the dignity and identity of each human being. The draft proposal of this international instrument, based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), has recently been sent to all the Member States of UNESCO and the United Nations Organization.
Federico Mayor has also informed the Executive Board of UNESCO, that, after consulting leading medical experts, he intends to propose to the Organization's next General Conference in October 1997 that a world commission on ethics and science be set up to tackle issues of scientific developments beyond genetics.