A government advisory panel has recommended that Japan allow researchers to produce cloned human embryos for basic research and create guidelines for their production and use.
Acting on a final report issued Tuesday by the panel, the science ministry and other government entities will work toward creating new guidelines and a monitoring system to ensure that the research follows them.
The bioethics subcommittee of the Council for Science and Technology Policy, under the Cabinet Office, made the recommendations. The council is headed by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
In the report, the panel also approved the production of fertilized eggs for use in regenerative medicine research.
Because some committee members strongly support creation of new legislation, which would have stronger legal force than new guidelines, the report also includes a sentence that says “the state will continue to study (the issue) with an eye to formulating new legislation.”
The report also urges the council to assess the overall rationale of the research, noting the usefulness of cloned human embryos to regenerative medicine is still unclear.
If researchers prove that cloned human embryos are not useful, the research must be halted, the report says.
Cloning of human embryos is controversial because it is seen by some as leading to the cloning of humans.
To prevent that from happening, the panel recommends that only state-designated research institutions take part in cloning research.
According to the panel, eggs used for cloning human embryos should only be taken from ovaries extracted for medical reasons or spare eggs resulting from fertility treatment. The panel also banned the donation of eggs for cloning.
Research on cloned human embryos is currently banned in Japan under guidelines based on a law on human cloning that took effect in 2001.