February 26, 2024

Israeli Knesset extends moratorium on human cloning

Government seeks another 5 years, gets 7

The Israeli Knesset has once again declined to ban human reproductive cloning. Instead it has extended a moratorium on it for another seven years. Scientists had apparently persuaded them that a permanent ban would make some researchers would abandon their cloning research. They seem to have won the day, as the government had only proposed a five-year moratorium.

Israel is a world leader in human embryonic stem cell research. A recent report in the journal Stem Cells ranked Israeli scientists second in the world, after the US, in in absolute (not per capita) numbers of publications in scientific journals up to the end of 2005. And four of the best-ever hESC peer-reviewed articles have been written by Israelis.

One of the leading hESC scientists in Israel, Benjamin Reubinoff, told the Jerusalem Post: “I am very happy that Israel has such a prominent role in hESC,” he said. “It is a big compliment to Israeli science, and we have great potential. Our prominence is due to the fact that we were pioneers in the field, there is a moral commitment to it and Judaism is so supportive. The government, especially the Science and Technology Ministry and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, has provided money for hESC research, but there is a need for more.”

However, there is significant opposition to cloning in Israel as well. Shortly before the moratorium was renewed, the Haifa Feminist Center, Isha L’Isha, called for an act which “completely and clearly bans human cloning”. Renewing it, said Isha L’Isha, would “weaken the validity of the message against human cloning, and will furthermore weaken the legal authority in its efforts to demand a firm regulative system”. ~ Jerusalem Post, Oct 5; Jerusalem Post, Oct 13

Michael Cook