Paris, July 28 - A Draft Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights with guidelines on genetic research and practices was adopted by an inter-governmental committee at the end of a four-day meeting at UNESCO's Headquarters in Paris early Saturday.
The Draft Declaration - designed over a period of four years to protect humanity from abuses rendered possible by genetic science while remaining open to research with great medical potential - will be submitted for adoption to the next General Conference of UNESCO in the autumn.
Fifty-three governmental experts from around the world worked on the Draft which was prepared by the International Bioethics Committee (IBC), established in 1992 by UNESCO Director-General Federico Mayor.
The Draft Declaration symbolically qualifies the human genome as heritage of humanity. Stressing the ethical implications of research in this field, it points to the specific responsibilities of both scientific researchers and policy makers in the public and private sectors alike.
It invites States to co-operate in identifying practices contrary to human dignity, notably reproductive cloning of human beings, and to take the steps necessary for the application of the principles set forth in the Declaration.
The experts officially confirmed the follow-up mission of the IBC to ensure that this text serves as a reference.
The Draft Declaration reflects the Committee's "concern to focus on the fundamental ethical issues at stake," said IBC President Noëlle Lenoir, adding:
"The Declaration does not aim to regulate, authorise or restrict specific scientific processes which may soon be obsolete." She explained that the text "has been designed to establish lasting ethical principles at a universal level," and said it "represents a real breakthrough, not only for the scientific community but for all the world's citizens."
Mr Mayor described the Declaration as "the first and only universal normative text which will have a definite impact on international legislation concerning the field of biology and medicine." Stressing the moral importance of this text, Mr Mayor said that the Draft "rejects all forms of discrimination among individuals based on their genetic characteristics and it rules out genetic determinism." He said that the Declaration follows the UN tradition begun with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
More information on the Declaration and on the International Bioethics Committee can be found on the Internet at http://www.