Pro-life groups have condemned today's decision in the House of Lords to allow scientists to create human embryo clones. A House of Lords select committee set up last year to examine claims that making clones was unnecessary, has ruled that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) can issue research licences. Supporters of the research believe it is necessary to find ways of regenerating tissues such as nerves, muscle and cartilage to treat the elderly and disabled. Those opposed to cloning argue that effective treatments could be developed using adult cells. The HFEA, which regulates embryology research in Britain, is likely to issue licences to begin experiments with human embryonic material almost immediately. The UK's controls on cloning under the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act were designed to place barriers in the way of anyone wanting to produce a child copy of a human being. Last year, the government passed a law allowing scientists to produce human embryo clones solely for the purpose of making replacement tissues that could be used in transplant procedures. The changes were designed to limit research on the embryos to a short period after creation - and then only by scientists with a licence. The Pro-life lobby then secured a High Court ruling that highlighted a legal loophole and derailed the legislation - but the decision was successfully challenged by the government at the Court of Appeal last month. The Rt Rev Richard Harries, the Bishop of Oxford who chaired the Committee, said: "Research on early human embryos raises difficult moral and scientific issues, on which there are strong and sincerely held views. "After looking at all the issues very carefully, the Committee was not persuaded that it would be right to prohibit all research on early embryos, which has been permitted since 1990 and regulated effectively by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority since then." Peter Garrett, director of research at Life, said: "This Committee is a put-up job. It is part of a larger effort to con the public into believing that therapeutic cloning is not cloning. The whole exercise has been a cosmetic one from start to finish." The chairman of LIFE, Professor Jack Scarisbrick said: ''Almost every day new evidence emerges from laboratories around the world that we do not need embryonic stem cells. Stem cells taken from the adults themselves are both ethically and medically better. They are stable, plentiful and versatile, and will match the recipient's DNA perfectly. We don't need cloning. It is a dead end. "In more civilised countries cloning is being banned. The UK is setting the world a deplorable example."
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