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British Parliament Approves Cloning of Human Embryonic Stem Cells for Research

Aired December 19, 2000 - 4:25 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: The British Parliament approved a controversial human cloning bill today, one that allows scientists to use human embryos for scientific research.

CNN's Margaret Lowrie with more now, from London.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the ayes have it. The ayes have it.

MARGARET LOWRIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The parliamentary vote, 366 to 174, means British researchers will be allowed to use stem cells from cloned human embryos. Britain's public health minister says it will help scientists in their battle against a host of different problems.

YVETTE COOPER, BRITISH PUBLIC HEALTH MINISTER: We're talking about spinal injuries, burns, osteoporosis, stroke, cancer, heart disease, serious disease and disability.

LOWRIE: Scientists say stem cells from human embryos, up to 14 days, are particularly vital to research, as the cells have the potential to grow into tissue of almost any type. The legislation, backed by the British Medical Association, would allow cloning of embryo cells under tight government controls, with each research project individually licensed.

DR. ROBIN LOVELL-BADGE, NATIONAL MEDICAL RESEARCH ASSISTANT: Embryonic stem cells has such a lot of potential to cure a whole range of really nasty debilitating diseases, which people die from slowly for 20 or 30 years. I cannot see the objections to doing this sort of research.

LOWRIE: But even some politicians who supported the legislation agonized over their decision.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is always far easier to categorize the two extremes than it is the gray area that lies in between.

LOWRIE: Some questioned the ethics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are simply creating this genetic blueprint in order to destroy it. Is that wise and is it the right and ethical thing to do?

LOWRIE: One opposition group warned science is moving too quickly.

JOSEPHINE QUINTAVALLE, MEDICAL ETHICS CAMPAIGN: We say at least go slow. This is about human cloning. We've seen science in a hurry. BSE: Does it come to mind? That was our wonderful scientists doing things in a huge hurry, and I think that's what Europe is certainly saying. You've unleashed mad cow disease on us. What's your next mad proposal?

LOWRIE: Others say there's nothing mad about a potential cure for diseases such as Parkinson's.

ROBERT MEADOWCROFT, PARKINSON'S DISEASE SOCIETY: And stem-cell research offers the possibility of leading to effective treatments, even potentially a cure as well. So there is great hope here.

LOWRIE: A great hope, researchers say, for thousands of ill people. But for others, it is a genie let out of the bottle.

Margaret Lowrie, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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